The Lesser Panda

I feel bad for this guy. First, he is not the panda of everyone’s dreams, he is lesser. Secondly, he is stuck inside a plastic bag.

This chocolate-cream-filled bun is to celebrate the Lesser Panda, also known as the Red Panda, at the Asahiyama Zoo in Hokkaido. So maybe life isn’t so bad.

A friend gave him to me, and at first I felt a little guilty about my plans to eat him (the panda, not the friend).

I quickly overcame my guilt because did I mention he is filled with chocolate? And is it gross that you can see my teeth marks in that photo? Maybe. I was worried this bun would be soggy — it seemed like there was moisture inside the bag, probably from the last breath of my suffocating lesser friend, but in truth it was a tasty cake.

Sorry about that, lesser panda.


The Tokyo Craft Party at FabCafe

Thanks again to everyone who joined us at the Etsy Worldwide Craft Party in Tokyo yesterday! It was fun meeting fellow makers, talkin’ shop, and getting our hands dirty in some decoupage. It must be a sign that I was too busy enjoying the party to stop and take photos, though thankfully my trusty assistant (my husband) snapped a few.

My sashiko workshop in-progress:

Never enough pom poms:

Some ladies wore yukata, a cotton kimono popular at summer festivals:

The staff at FabCafe were wonderful. Here, the laser cutter at work:

My assistant and I take a break:

Thanks again, everyone! Hope to see you at the next event!

First Dress

I made a dress. And I took my picture and will let you see my face.

These are big steps. Admittedly, I’m a little nervous.

This is the first dress I have sewn. Maybe I made a dress when I was a kid, but I don’t remember it so it doesn’t count. My friend Thewallina helped me decipher the pattern from BurdaStyle Magazine, and I pieced it together on my own. It was simple and satisfying, the prefect project.

I bought this fabric for 100 yen a meter in Fabric Town, so I felt OK just going for it — no practice muslins for this girl. I misaligned the stripes because I like it that way, and when you sew your own clothes you can do whatever you want! If I make this dress again, I’ll omit the pockets because honestly, they’re useless.

I made this dress a few weeks ago and have been saving it for the right occasion. I finally got tired of waiting and wore it to the supermarket. It was a really hot day, and this dress was cool and breezy. I realize these are the key characteristics of a muumuu, and this dress might actually resemble one if you look closely enough, but that doesn’t matter because I made it. So all you naysayers, back away slowly.

Because I made a dress, and then I wore it in public.


I spent the weekend on Sado Island off the western coast of Honshu. We went for the yearly taiko festival, Earth Celebration, and I expected to see some drum circles, drink some beer and call it a day. I ended up in balloon pants, and it was awesome.

We took an overnight bus from Tokyo to Naoetsu then boarded a ferry to Ogi, a small town on the southern edge of the island. In total the trip took almost 11 hours. I thought the night bus would drain me of every ounce of energy and leave me ruined for the rest of the trip, but in fact, as soon as I arrived in Sado I felt refreshed. The air was clear and people were relaxed — it was the best parts of Japan in vacation mode.

I tagged along on a ride to Skyline Drive and stuck my head out the car window like a golden retriever. To my left was a rocky coastline, to the right, rice fields. The island is mountainous and dramatic, but the water is calm and clear.

We parked along the road and picked our way through rice fields, then the trees, and finally out to a secret swimming cove. The water was an incredible blue-green color, with alternating currents of chilling cold water, then bath-like hot. We jumped from the rocks, and I got a sufficient amount of salt water up my nose.

Sado’s scenery is amazing, but the reason we went was for the taiko. Every year Sado hosts Earth Celebration where Kodo, Japan’s most respected taiko group, presents concerts, workshops, and festival events. Previous to this weekend I had never seen Kodo perform, and in all honestly, hadn’t been that interested in taiko. But as soon as Kodo took the stage I was entranced. Kodo’s style is strong and captivating and musical. And the drums are really big. You not only hear the music, you feel it.

Just before dusk everyone climbs the steep hill to Shiroyama Park and spreads their small tarps on the lawn. The stage was backlit with lightning from the mainland and the sound from the せみ, or cicadas, competed with Kodo for center stage.

After the first concert I went from being an observer to wanting to embrace the experience. I bought baggy pants at the outdoor market near the harbor. I danced samba and cheered on capoeira on the fringe stage. I learned a festival street dance. I ate kakigori and drank Japanese craft beer regardless of the time of day. I went on a kayaking excursion and engaged in a water war with the teenagers in our group. In return, I was soaked from head to toe and had to wrap myself in my sarong which was meant to be my concert blanket.

I’m not sure if it is the festival atmosphere of Earth Celebration, or if people on Sado are just Japanese-nice to an extreme, but everyone I met was genuine and kind and excited that I was there. Their attitudes were contagious and refreshing. After misplacing my swimming suit after that fated kayaking trip, the volunteer at the info office told me, “Don’t worry, we’ll find it. Now go have fun!” OK, if you insist! I did as I was told and a few hours later retrieved my damp suit from her desk, tied up in a small bag. She said, “It’s a little bit disgusting,” but she said it with a smile.

I was sad to leave and am already plotting my return.

I’ll see you again, Sado.

Kodo photos were taken by my friend James Gunsalus. Thanks Jim!

Pile of Pretz

I have a lot of photos of snack food on my camera.

One of the things I love about Pretz is that every few months they throw a few new flavors at us. I’m a sucker, and I buy them every time. Salty Butter Pretz? I wonder if that tastes different from Savory Butter Pretz? I must buy them NOW. Of course they taste the same, they always taste the same – like a crispy little cracker stick covered in fake umami flavoring. And I love it.  Behold, some new flavors:

Butter and soy sauce? Tastes like salt. Onion gratin soup? Tastes like salt.

Chirimenjako, or salty little fish. Tasted like salty fish.


Okonomiyaki? Tastes surprising like okonomiyaki, like the green seaweed stuff you sprinkle on top of your savory sauce-covered pancake. Adzuki toast? Disgusting! So gross! I spit them out and made a big display of how utterly horrible they were. Then promptly insisted Dan try them. He wouldn’t. I had high hopes for this one, I really did. I thought a salty sweet snack would be right up my alley, but this is more like a salty nasty snack. *Shudder*

There were two others which I opened and devoured before I could take a photo. I kept thinking I’d see them in the supermarket again, but as is the nature of Pretz, they are gone forever. You’ll have to believe me that they existed – wasabi and yuzu. Both were salty. And good.

I need a glass of water.

Sashiko Tissue Case Workshop, The Etsy Craft Party 8/25

As I hinted before, I’ll be hosting a sashiko workshop on Saturday, August 25th at the Etsy Worldwide Craft Party! Email me at to reserve a spot or see below for more details.

It sounds like the event is shaping up to be a really fun night, so I hope you’ll join us. Etsy gatherings in Tokyo are always a great opportunity to meet other sellers, trade advice about our shops, and generally chat about craft life in Japan. I’ve met some wonderful people at past Etsy parties who have since become good friends, so I’m looking forward to this one as well.

This year’s Etsy Craft Party theme is “Wish you were here!” so we’re celebrating what makes summer unique in Japan — festivals! Etsy is sending craft supplies for lots of DIY activities, including a photo booth, laser-cut designs, a photo frame workshop, lots of food and cheap drinks. I hope to see you there! Click this link to RSVP — the more attendees, the more craft loot Etsy sends us! So please sign up!

Saké Puppets Sashiko Tissue Case Workshop

When: Saturday, August 25th 7-8 pm
Where: FabCafe in Shibuya  (Access map)
Cost: ¥2000 per person for workshop participants. Entry to the Etsy Craft Party is free and includes snacks, drinks available for ¥500 at the bar
The Project: Make your own sashiko tissue case! Together we’ll hand-sew a pocket tissue case and learn how to use sashiko embroidery to decorate it with fun and modern designs. Choose your favorite fabric, colors, patterns, and embellishments! The workshop will be held in English, but help in Japanese is available.

Space is limited so please email me at to sign up. Thanks! I hope to see you there!

開催時間:19:00 〜 20:00
場所:FabCafe 渋谷(アクセス
参加費 :1人¥2000 、Etsy Craft Party は無料、お酒と飲み物は¥500


ワークショップでは刺し子作りなどを通じて、楽しく英語を勉強できます。ワークショップ = 手芸 + 楽しい英語!



Mosquitos Don’t Scare Us

They tried — those little blood-sucking devils! — but craft prevailed, and we had a lovely time sewing in the park.

Sunday’s session of the English Craft Club was the nine-patch quilting class. We started on some fluffy grass under a tree in Shinjuku Gyoen, and after valiant battle with some mosquitos we retreated found a better spot in a nearby picnic pavilion. The mosquitos may have bullied us, but they couldn’t damper our craft spirits.

My favorite part of these quilting classes is watching everyone choose their fabrics. For each class I bring pre-cut fabric squares so we can get right to work designing our quilt blocks. I’ve been collecting this fabric for the past two years, and some I brought with me from the US, so it is always interesting to see the fabric find a new life in someone’s quilt. Here is Thewallinna making her first quilt block. So sweet!

The next quilting class will be held on Sunday, September 23rd, and a special Saké Puppets sashiko workshop is scheduled for August 25th at the Etsy Craft Party in Shibuya. Stay tuned for more details!