Yeah, so I disappear for a long time, and when I resurface it’s because I have made yet another T-shirt. I am pretty excited about this T-shirt, though, because I used some yummy knit fabric I got in Japan at Rick Rack.
The knit is a double layer, with the underside being a super soft pointelle. Why don’t they sell knits like this in the US? It is a crime, I tell you! The pattern is one I drafted, and it’s just a regular ol’ nothin’ fancy T-shirt.
I’m a BzzAgent, which basically means once in a while I get to try out new products or services and tell people what I think. It’s pretty fun, and I have discovered some pretty cool things, such as Cellphone Postcards.
This service lets you send your cell phone photos as postcards, which is a pretty genius idea. I don’t carry a camera around with me, but I usually have my iPhone, and I love to take photos with it. What better way to share those photos? Yeah, I know you can e-mail them or stick them on flickr or twitter or whatever, but getting a copy in the mail with a personal note is hard to beat.
To be honest, I was a bit skeptical at first. I thought the quality would be kind of cheesy, but I was pleasantly surprised. The postcards are sturdy and shiny and fun. The service is easy to use, and I think 99 cents per card is a good deal. I am definitely going to keep using this service!
Please note that I am not getting paid to talk about how great Cellphone Postcards or BzzAgent are. In fact, I think I missed the deadline to “report” my “bzz” back to BzzAgent, so I am not scoring any points for talking up this service. For realz.
I think the ballpoint pen is underrated. Sure, they are mass produced and generally kind of crappy, but I think each of us at some point has experienced a special relationship with a ballpoint pen (I’m looking at you, Bic retractable ballpoint pen with the U-Haul logo).
Thanks to my people, it is once again possible, and dare I say, unavoidable, to love the ballpoint pen. And thanks to those lovely people at JetPens, we can enjoy these ballpoint pens right here in the land of the California Roll.
Some of you know of my fondness for the Uni-ball Jetstream pens. They come in various point sizes (.7mm is my fave, though I have to admit being somewhat obsessed with the .5mm Uni-ball Jetstream Color Ink Series). Every time I use a Jetstream, I am overcome with a feeling of serenity and a desire for the ink to never stop flowing. Okay, so I am exaggerating. A bit.
As much as I love the Uni-ball Jetstream, I do not use it exclusively. Call me a ballpoint ho if you will, but I like different flavors for different moods, and I discovered a couple other ballpoint pens that write as smooth as buttah. Hello, Pentel Vicuna (.7mm) and Zebra Surari (.7mm). This is the first ballpoint from Zebra that I actually like. I know there are many Zebra fans out there, but I have found them to be a bit skippy and draggy, plus they tend to get that teeny glob of ink buildup on the tip. I hate that! The Surari, though, glides very nicely.
Anyway, check out JetPens. If you can’t find a ballpoint pen to your liking, then, well, there’s something wrong with you.
The haramaki, or belly warmer, is a winter staple in Japan. Young and old, men and women, the haramaki does not discriminate (my father was a landscaper, and he used to wear one all the time). I have a few, and they really do keep the belly warm. You can pull them halfway down over your butt, too, so you don’t flash any skin when you bend over in those low-rise pants (slot machine!).
They are just tubes, so they are very easy to make. I got some nice high-tech stretch fabric with fuzzy backing from Rose City Textiles and just sewed one seam (I made my 11″ wide and about 30 cm tall). I did not even bother to finish the cut edges because they do not unravel. Now, with this one (about 11″ wide and more like 40cm tall) I was inspired by a sporty haramaki I saw in a sports shop. Pockets! For gels and keys and such! Genius! I made it as a gift, so I am not sure I got the pocket placement just right, but hopefully the recipient is running miles and miles in the wintry weather with a toasty belly.
Amazingly, I got some sewing done over the weekend. Yeah, it’s a sweatshirt, but it’s winter, and I am always cold. I always have to have on several layers, and when I go outdoors, I need the technical gear, like Goretex or down. I have to face the elements, people, and I need equipment! So anyway, a while back I got this sweatshirt pattern from Rick Rack, a great little fabric store in Japan that seems to specialize in awesome knits. I got some fleece-lined high-tech sweatshirty fabric from Rose City Textiles, and there you have it. This came together very easily in an afternoon. It’s super comfy and WARM, and I really love it. Peter thinks it looks an article of clothing from a spaceship (I think what he is trying to say is it looks like a Star Trek uniform).
Okay, so we’ve had several days of gloriously dry yet very chilly weather, but soon we will return to the downpours and nonstop wetness that is the Pacific Northwest. I grew up here in Portland, and I have never liked the rain. In fact, when we moved back up here from California, my one big splurge was to buy a treadmill, even though I had never set foot on one before. I like to run, but I knew that my weak will and general laziness did not stand a chance against the Portland winters.
I am happy to have the treadmill, but I am even happier when I run outside. The treadmill is great for those days when I just cannot bear to go out into the wet and dark and would rather veg out to CSI reruns, but some days I have to get outdoors, even if it’s raining. I can’t avoid the wet, steamy glasses (I don’t wear contacts) or the sopping, muddy shoes (I guess there ARE goretex shoes … ), but maybe, just maybe I can do something about the wet legs!
I got a Uniqlo “warm easy skirt” in Japan to wear after cold winter runs with my friends and realized that it was the perfect prototype for a rain skirt. I got some breathable, waterproof fabric from my beloved Rose City Textiles and copied the Uniqlo skirt. Super basic and easy. The back waistband has elastic in it, and the front has snap tape. If I weren’t so lazy and impatient, I would have put a pocket on it. I haven’t taken it for a test run yet, so I don’t know how it will perform, but I will find out this weekend!
We had a mini getaway right after Christmas and took off to Baker City in eastern Oregon. Neither of us had ever been east of Umatilla before, so it was new territory. I knew nothing about Baker City, but it turns out to be a historic mining town with cute brick buildings and good coffee.
We stayed at the restored Geiser Grand Hotel, which is supposedly haunted (we did not run into any ghosts). Also interesting is the fact that some Japanese television show (Fuji Television’s “unbelievable”) is apparently smitten with the Geiser Grand. The show already filmed two episodes at the Geiser Grand and is doing a live feed on NY’s Eve. Who would have thought?
We also enjoyed some snowplay at the Anthony Lakes Ski Area. It wasn’t crowded at all, and the snow was like powder. Peter went cross-country skiing, and I tried snowshoeing for the first time.
We had a great time, and I would definitely go back, which is saying a lot, since I don’t generally care for the cold or snow!
I recently had a white trash cookie party. It was white trash not in a disgusting yicky sense but in a delicious, cookies-from-bygone-eras sense. We had some real winners, I think. I made these orange dream cookies with white chocolate chips. I thought they would taste like creamsicles. I’m not really sure how I feel about them. The pie in that photo? Magic pie. It’s that butterscotch cream pie with gingersnap crust.
And here we have some candy cane shortbready cookies plus white trash, which is seriously addictive stuff.
And saltine toffee and tingalings, always a crowd pleaser and so easy to make.
All in all everything was super delicious, and I was impressed that everyone actually stuck to the white trash theme (it was not going to be enforced). I just went to another cookie exchange this evening, but I didn’t take any photos. Man, it was a winner of an exchange. I am now very, very full.
There is something magical about making marshmallows. It just seems so unreal. How do you start out with some sugars and such and end up with MARSHMALLOWS? And other people usually respond in disbelief: “you made MARSHMALLOWS?”
The thing is, while it can be a bit messy (hot syrup and powdered sugar flying about), making marshmallows is pretty easy. It’s essentially an exercise for your stand mixer. Still, I hadn’t made any in a few years. I then saw this recipe for spiced pumpkin pie marshmallows and had to try it. I always have a ton of canned pumpkin (Deedle eats it), and chicken had just given me some homemade pumpkin pie spice, so the time was right.
They are a little weird. I love pumpkin, but I don’t know how I feel about pumpkin in marshmallows. I guess I will have to sample several more before I can really decide.
[I took this photo with the new camera I got in Japan: the Panasonic GF1. Of course, they just released the GF2, but that’s okay, cuz I LOVE my GF1!]
My friend Chico Hayasaki is an amazing artist (in addition to being an incredible person). Her work appears all over the place, and she is always doing super crafty things. She designed a couple of mugs and plates for &MO Design, and I somehow figured out that they were available in a fancy mall a block away from our hotel in Osaka. I dragged my mother, aunt, and brother (much to his chagrin) there, and after much wandering, we found them! I bought this mug, and I love it. It even conforms to my new mug rule (I only buy mugs that will hold at least 8 oz. of liquid).
My brother and I met Chico for dinner in Tokyo, and she gifted me a mug and plate of the other design! Of course, my mother immediately stole the mug. Anyway, Chico was wearing some of her jewelry, too, which is gorgeous. Come spring I should have some more news about Chico’s successes (I don’t know if it’s a secret, so I guess I shouldn’t spill, but it has something to do with one of my hobbies that requires cutting and stitching).