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

Feeling Nosey: A Saké Puppets Survey

Perhaps I’m still feeling the new year delusion high, but I thought it would be fun to post a survey. Fun for me, surely! Hopefully it is fun for you, too. Let me convince you: Quizzes are great! When I was a teenager I loved taking the quizzes in those lady magazines. What kind of kisser are you? I was delighted to learn I was the Moroccan kind, despite the fact that I didn’t know where Morocco was and that boys were terrifying.

This little quiz is just 10 questions, with no surprise essay portion, I swear. Why post a survey? Because I’m curious. I want to learn more about you and why you are here. And because sometimes I feel like I talk too much.

Thanks in advance!

In With the New: To-Do for 2013

snowy american sunrise

Yesterday I shared last year’s to-do list and how well I did checking things off. It feels good to keep a list and look back a year later, to see how your year changed from the one you had imagined. I might not have accomplished everything on my list, but keeping an eye on it throughout the year gave a good push to keep trying new things.

I’m stepping into this year tentatively, like I am dipping my toes into water — will it be refreshing? Too hot? Will I turn and run and hide under my towel? We shall see. Here is the list for 2013:

Cook 12 new recipes. I am putting this on the list again, even though last year I failed miserably at it. I want to cook more, and if this list gives me even a little bit of encouragement it will be a positive gain. I’d love to learn more traditional Japanese dishes, so perhaps I’ll even treat myself to a cooking class.

Read 8 books. I’m upping the ante from 5 last year. Recommendations?

Visit 6 new places. This is achievable so I’m sticking with it. If I could go anywhere? The mountains of Chile, Alaska, New Zealand. Where might I go? Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, or a romp through northern Japan. I’d love to find a hike to a secret little outdoor onsen in the mountains.

Sew 6 new garments. My new sewing hobby has me obsessed. I’d like to learn more skills this year, and make a fitted and lined dress, pants, and a jacket or blazer. I vow to not be afraid to cut into expensive fabrics.

Make a gigantic sashiko art piece. A last-minute addition. Why not?!

Publish something. An article or an encyclopedia (dream big!), it doesn’t matter.

2013? Let’s do this.

Out With the Old: 2012’s To-Dos

明けましておめでとうございます。今年もよろしくお願いします。

Happy New Year, my friends.

I am easing into 2013. My season of travels abroad, visits with friends and family, handmade gifts and home cooked meals is coming to a close, and I am settling in. 2013 promises many challenges and I am gathering the strength to face them.

Last year at this time I made a to-do list. I dislike resolutions, but to-do lists I can handle. Looking back, I feel good about the things I checked off the list. It turns out I cook a lot less than I thought I did but sew quite a bit more. I feel OK with a trade-off like that. Here is my list and how I fared:

Cook 12 new recipes, one per month. Not even close. Though, I probably ate 12 new foods, like natto, coffee jelly, and tom yum. I can’t believe I waited so long for tom yum. What was I thinking?

food

Read 5 books. I remember thinking this was on the low side, that of course I would read more than 5 books in a year. I read 6.

books

Swamplandia! by Karen Russell, Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart, Ghostwritten by David Mitchell, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz, The Pilgrim Hawk: A Love Story by Glenway Wescott, The Middlesteins by Jami Attenberg

Visit 6 new places. Cities or countries, it doesn’t matter. And walk around these places without a map. 

travels

  1. Shiga kogen, Nagano, Japan
  2. Hijiori Onsen, Yamagata, Japan
  3. Kuala Lumpur & Malacca, Malaysia
  4. Singapore
  5. Sado Island, Japan
  6. Okinawa, Japan

Make a quilt for myself, for fun. I did, and it was fun. I also spent a lot of time learning to sew clothing. I made 6 new garments and 4 neckties.

sewing

Have a conversation with a stranger in Japanese. This really reminds me of how little I could, or would, say before I started my Japanese classes. I was a big chicken. Now I am often faced with having to speak Japanese with strangers, and I’m a little less of a chicken.

2012, I think you did alright by me. I visited lovely new places, I ate a lot and spent quality time with quality people, I learned some things, and even found my face on the Internet (like here and here). Nice work, 2012. Now, can you give 2013 the message?

How did your 2012 to-do lists turn out?

Kotatsu warms by heart. And feet.

Exciting things are happening over here at Saké Puppets. I was interviewed by the Japan Times and I’m hosting an English Craft Club quilting class this Sunday. But most importantly, I got a kotatsu.

It is mine, wrinkles and all. I’m the kind of girl who puts on her clothes with the hope that the warmth of her body will undo the creases, so honestly wrinkles don’t bother me.

What is this contraption, you ask? A short-legged table with a small space heater attached to the underside. Come to think of it, it is bit like the daschund I had as kid. You stick your toes in its undercarriage and hope for the best. Then cover the whole thing with a big blanket, and you’ve got yourself a little winter nest.

I might let the kotatsu swallow me up to the chin. I’ll see you in the spring.