Sashiko Gift Guide

The holiday season ’tis upon us again. Tokyo is blanketed in tiny LED lights and Colonel Sanders has donned his holiday Santa hat. The Christmas spirit and the smell of fried chicken are in the air!

My web shop will be offering Black Friday/Cyber Monday specials again this year, so I encourage you to take a peek! For all orders placed between Friday, November 23rd and Monday, November 26th use coupon code CHEER to receive 10% off your order and to receive a special little surprise gift in the package. It might be edible. It will definitely be weird. Orders will ship Tuesday morning and will arrive in plenty of time for Christmas.

Need a little help with your holiday shopping? I’ve taken the liberty of putting together a holiday helper guide. Friends, see if you can guess which one of these are you.

For the Crafty Teen :: Maybe they’re too smart for their own good, or maybe they just like to glue sh*t to other sh*t. Perfect for the girl who loves to mix and match accessories and colors and multi-color nail polish. Or for the full-grown woman who also loves these things, including dressing like a teen.

The DIY Brooch Kit, $15

For the Busy Mom :: They love to create but have troubling finding the time, because, you know, they are busy keeping tiny humans alive. These sashiko kits come with all the materials needed for a full project, and are easy to start, set aside, pick back up again, and finish by dim lamp light in the middle of the night.

The Genki Sashiko Coasters (Set of 4) DIY Embroidery Kit, $25

For the Friend Who Always Throws a Better Party Than You :: Wine parties, knitting parties, and impromptu I-just-threw-this-delicious-hotdish-together parties, she does it all. This friend enjoys creating a fun atmosphere for her loved ones and is very good at it, so the special touches really matter.

Traditional Sashiko Coasters, Set of 4, $40

For the Girl Who is Just a Friend :: You don’t want to give the wrong impression, like the time you gave her holiday-themed socks and you found yourself in an awkward position. You also know ladies love presents and you don’t want to take the heat the next time you introduce her to your new girlfriend, and she tells New Girlfriend how awful you are at gift-giving. Because you care enough to say you know she knows you care how she looks.

The Sashiko Pocket Mirror, $20

For the Inoffensive Coworker :: You like your colleagues but perhaps you don’t know much about them. Or maybe you do and pretend you don’t. A hand-stitched gift for an inoffensive coworker is the perfect way to say, “Have a fine holiday. But not too much fun that you run off and leave me with all this work.” Also, these ornaments are fun to make, so you might as well get something out of the deal.

Sashiko Starry Night DIY Felt Ornament Kit, $20

Christmas Pie

I know Christmas was over 2 weeks ago. It has taken me that long to recover.

Dan and I spent 3 glorious weeks in the US for the holidays. We saw friends and family. We raced Hot Wheels with our nephew. We drank homemade eggnog and red wine that wasn’t chilled (why, Japan? why?!). And we ate. I gained 2 pounds in the first week, then stopped counting. I knew what I was up against when I witnessed my mother-in-law buy 8 pounds of butter.

I was responsible for at least a pound of that edible gold. For Christmas eve dinner I made two of my favorite pie recipes — deep-dish winter fruit and bourbon pecan.

I haven’t talked about my pie obsession in a while, probably because I am still grieving the loss of a real oven. So for a full afternoon my dad and I barricaded ourselves in the kitchen, drank brandy, and rolled out two beauties. It’s just not Christmas until the kitchen smells like cinnamon. Or there is day drinking. My Christmases involve a lot of that, too.

Try them for yourself!

Deep-Dish Winter Fruit Pie with Walnut Crumb Topping

From Rustic Fruit Desserts: Crumbles, Buckles, Cobblers, Pandowdies, and More

Pie Crust

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 12 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 3 tablespoons ice water
  • 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

Walnut Crumb Topping

  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup raw walnuts, coarsely chopped
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Fruit Filling

  • 1 cup dried figs
  • 4 small apples, peeled and sliced
  • 4 pears, peeled and sliced
  • 1 cup cranberries, fresh or frozen (In a pinch, I use craisins. This year I used brandied cranberries.)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch (I usually skip this.)

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 375°F.

Crust: Combine flour, sugar, and salt in food processor. Add the butter and mix just until the mixture becomes coarse and crumbly and the butter is the size of peas. Stir the water and lemon juice together, then pour over the dry ingredients and stir just until the dry ingredients are moistened. (The key is to keep the water cold so it doesn’t melt your butter. Keep your butter chunky, this helps create a flaky crust.) Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate while you prep the rest of your pie. When ready, roll the chilled dough into a 14-inch disk, then line a 9 or 10 by 3-inch springform pan with the rolled-out dough.

Topping: Mix flour, brown sugar, walnuts, cinnamon, and salt together in a bowl. Stir in the butter, then work it in with your hands until the texture of crumbs.

Filling: Remove the stem from each fig, then boil the figs in 1 cup of water for 5 minutes. Drain and set aside until cool enough to handle. Slice each fig into 4 to 5 pieces, put them in a large bowl, and add the apples, pears, and cranberries. Gently toss the fruit with sugar until evenly coated.

Transfer the filling to the pie shell and top with the walnut crumb. Bake in the lower third of the oven for 60 to 75 minutes, or until the crumb is golden, the fruit juices are bubbling thickly around the edges, and the fruit is tender. If the crumb is getting too dark, cover it with foil while baking.

Bourbon Pecan Pie
Adapted from Bon Appétit, November 2006

Pie Crust

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 4 to 5 tablespoons ice water


  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup agave syrup
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup bourbon
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon peel
  • 2 cups pecan halves, very coarsely chopped

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F.

Crust: Combine flour and salt in food processor. Add the butter and mix just until the mixture becomes coarse and crumbly and the butter is the size of peas. Pour the water over the dry ingredients and pulse just until the dry ingredients are moistened. (The key is to keep the water cold so it doesn’t melt your butter. Keep your butter chunky, this helps create a flaky crust.) Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate while you prep the rest of your pie. When ready, roll the chilled dough into a 10-inch disk, then line a 9 or 10-inch pie plate with the rolled-out dough. Fold the extra dough under and crimp to make a decorative edge.

Filling: Whisk eggs in large bowl. Whisk in both sugars, then next 5 ingredients. Stir in pecans. Pour into crust.

Bake until filling is puffed and just set in center (filling may begin to crack), about 55 minutes.


Christmastime in Twinkle Town

Merry Christmas everyone!  I just needed to share, here is what Christmas looks like in Japan:

Roppongi Illumination is pretty amazing.

Christmas cookies, very delicious.

A picture of people taking pictures.

Our Christmas view.  Squint and you can see Mt. Fuji.

Fried Chicken, a Japanese Christmas tradition.  Mmmmmmm.

Christmas Crafts

Did you think I’d let a holiday go by without any crafts?  I think not!

A few years ago I started Homemade Christmas, an ambitious plan to sew or bake or stitch some element of all the gifts for my family for the holidays.  I always meant to start in September, but never got going until after Thanksgiving and then without fail would spend Christmas Eve in my room with a headlamp and an embroidery hoop.  Spoiler alert — I didn’t make any gifts for Christmas this year.  I’m a little disappointed in myself, actually.  I’ve been busy making things for other people, and with an early December deadline for shipping to the States, I didn’t have my 2 am Christmas Eve sewing miracle to count on.  Sorry, family.  This year you’re getting random Japanese curiosities instead.

But the crafter in me just couldn’t let the holiday pass without a little sparkle-adorned felt for the occasion.

Take note, Santa.  And what is that adorable Christmas village, you ask?  Even Tokyo looks quaint in wooden miniatures.

The Lego angel is on my desk all year long and I think finally feels at home with some Christmas company.  I’m sort of loving his Godzilla-esque presence over those buses.

I didn’t stop at stockings.  Maybe I’m crazy, but I somehow feel it’s not Christmas unless I’ve made something for someone, so I whipped up a few ornaments to give as gifts.

A few of them even got star tree-toppers.  I’m in love with these 5-hole buttons.

I think the ornaments look rather cute on my tree branch.  No $500 Oregon pine for me. (Seriously.  That is no exaggeration.)  The beauty of a corner nook in a small apartment — I really only need 1/4 of a tree.

Today is the Emperor’s birthday, a national holiday in Japan and the beginning of our long weekend of leisure.  I’m looking forward to all the fried chicken and eggnog in my future.  What is everyone else cooking?

Merry Christmas!