Scorching Orange and Mint Salad

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We had a strange assortment of leftovers from a party, including a bag of oranges, a bunch of mint and and a whole jar of black olives. A friend recently returned from a trip to South America gifted us some unidentified dried chiles. This must be a salad! The addition of cilantro and salt rounded it out. We considered adding red onion or feta - maybe next time - but the salad stood well without them.

Tod says, "The whole is more than the sum of its parts. Each ingredient contributes its own unique character and the salad wouldn't be the same without any of them. The chiles contribute a shocking level of capsaicin but the mouth quickly grows used to it and, in fact, craves more. Just the level of spiciness that addicts seek out. The oranges are all sweetness, the olives provide a roundness, the cilantro is a high note and the mint a cool relief."

There's no particular recipe, but we used two oranges, a big handful each of mint and cilantro, a tablespoon of sliced black olives and a 10 cm soaked dried chile snipped into shreds.

 

The 2015 Equinox Storybook

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At our annual equinox bbq yesterday, we collaborated on a short story. Each of us wrote a sentence then passed the book to someone else. The results are odd and probably say quite a bit about the mind of each writer. I did the illustrations this morning and photographed the pages.

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Things did a sinister retake at the end there! After we completed this one, we tried out hand a 6 word stories and I jotted them down as we shared them. 

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We also had an ichi-en hunt with prizes, and Samm led us in a song with musical squeaking pigs.

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Here are some of the coins that stayed hidden!




1993: Sisters in Song

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Cleaning out some of my photos and memorabilia, I came across this treasure. Me, Louise Zbozny, Shirley Mounts, and Jen Zbozny after our first place triumph in the Fiberfest Talent show.

We performed a ten minute musical. Country girl (Louise) versus her city-loving sister (me) with Jen as our neighbor and Shirley as the Narrator. Louise and Jen rewrote lyrics to famous musical songs. Tod recorded background tracks for us. We practiced in the car on the way to Kalamazoo, MI, and worked on our dance number between the bed and the dresser in the hotel room. It was so much fun to create and prepare that the prize was only the icing on the cake.
I was pretty happy to find the lyrics to the songs and I want to share them so that I can sing them again some day or in case you need a musical about sisters or country life. The narration is lost, so you'll have to figure out how to thread the story together. The order of songs was Wouldn't it be Loverly (Louise), Sheep Shit in the Shadows (me), Favorite Things (duet), It's a Fine Life (Jen), Sisters (duet).

 

Juggling in Yangon

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I spent the past week in Yangon, Myanmar, for a juggling festival & social circus project organised by Serious Fun in Yangon. Me and two dozen other international jugglers flew in to do shows and teach workshops all over the city. We worked with disabled kids, a monastery school, rescued child soldiers, and the general public.

There were so many great people. I reconnected with Andrea, the head of Spark Circus, and we'll be working together on some stuff in the coming year or so. I got my first volunteer for Spin Matsuri India, Elad, an Isreali juggler who will be in India later this year when I'm there, too. I watched in awe as veteran performers did their stuff: Haggis, Ben Zuddist, Maike, & Captain Finhead are the sort of performers I want to emulate - skilled, able to play to all ages in any condition with aplomb and good humour. I made connections with circus people, tech people, and new friends from all over the world. I also met a juggler, Mike Twist, who lives two stations away from me in Tokyo. We have very little overlap in our circles, which is rare for long-term foreigners here. I'm sure we will meet up and do more together in the coming months.

I learned to juggle two balls in one hand. Seems like it would be easy, but it has eluded me forever. Roo, a 15 year old, stared at me the way only teens can until I got it. I simply could not let myself fail and I didn't stop until I could do columns in both hands and inside and outside cascades, too. I also managed to juggle (1 whole juggle) clubs, another long-standing goal. Alberto taught me the tricks: throw to the outside, not forward; sing circus music while doing so. The music made it work. And I also learned to bend balloons - I can make a balloon sword. Slowly and carefully...but I can do it and it will only get better from here. Practice, practice, practice!

The highlight of my week was the praise I got from my fellow jugglers regarding my skill at stage management. Yep, I am not the best juggler (in this group, I was the the worst by far) and my performances are less polished than they could be, but I am fearless backstage and it was a treat to know that performers I respect recognised that.

Reasonably Tidy

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The living room circa 1978

"What sort of home did you grow up in?" a #minsgame friend asked me after describing her mother's hoarding tendencies and the clutter she lived with as a child.

A phrase popped into my head immediately. Mom described our house as "reasonably tidy" and I remember her making sure that it wasn't cluttered or too messy. The living room got a once-over every day to straighten it up, and we were expected to to take our things (toys, books, sweaters) up to our rooms at bedtime. The dining table was never piled high with stuff like in some of my friends' homes. We cleaned weekly, but tidied daily. 

Mom set a good example that I have failed to follow. Not to say that I'm a complete slob, but I'm not as consistent as I could be about patrolling the house. After recalling the right phrase, I've been making an effort to put the house to rights every day because I value a "reasonably tidy" room.

Thanks, Mom, for being a role model in this and so many other ways. Happy 75th birthday!

We won the #minsgame

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Tod & I both played through the Minimalism Game this month with great success. 1576 items left our apartment in 31 days. What?!

I started the game thinking I didn't really have that much clutter and that reaching the goal - 496 items - was going to clear out my spaces very well. As it turns out, I lapped the game with 1080 items of my own removed. Tod did 496 on the dot. I have a lot more clutter in my life than I thought.

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Learnings: 

  • Gathering together a group of people (the Minimalism & Decluttering Games group I started on Facebook) has made the process a delight. Everyone shared their daily decluttering stories and there was accountability to not skip days. I am pretty sure it would have been a drudge and I would have quit otherwise.
  • I can't remember 99% of the things I decluttered. Things that come to mind: the orange phone & a stack of party plates...and that is all I recall without looking at the photos I took.
  • The more clutter I removed, the more I realised there was to still get rid of. Even now, I could easily play the game again and will in March.
  • We've accumulated and saved things from a lifestyle that has changed quite a bit over the 13 years we've lived in this apartment.
  • Guilt plays a big role in hanging on to things too long - it was hard to dispose of gifts or things we "paid good money for" but rarely use. 
  • Having fewer things around gives me more energy and motivation for maintaining what's here
  • Minimalism doesn't mean austerity; it means not having excess.
  • There are lots of people who are happy to have the strangest things you might want to give away.
  • Donating items in Japan isn't easy, but the we gave clothing to a Syrian refuge charity drive, and the Salvation Army has a donations center that was happy to take my random assortment of stuff at the end of the game.
  • I think moving things out of my life has given me mental room to invite friends and ideas back in.

Hisashiburi, Kimie!

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Me, Kimie Yanagi, and Hanako Murakami.

A few summers ago, or maybe more than a few, I was part of Hanako Murakami's exhibition at the Echigo Tsumari Trienniale in Niigata. It was a great summer of making art and helping out with the festival in the tiny village of Matsudai. One of the residents, Kimie Yanagi, adopted Hanako and her entire crew. Kimie cooked for us and at rice harvest time, we went up to help out. 

Since then, Hanako has moved to Europe to pursue her art there. Kimie and I have kept in touch a bit, but we've not managed a visit until Hanako came back to Tokyo last week and organised a dinner for the old festival crew. It was a delight to catch up with people and to see Kimie again in person. At 80, she is as genki as ever. What a sweetheart!

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Tod & I have promised to go visit and a handwritten letter received from Kimie yesterday means she isn't going to forget. Looking forward to a relaxing weekend in Niigata this spring.


In Front of the Camera

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Me & Tod "on set" in our living room

For a change, I am in front of the camera in character and in costume. I have a small part in a film project being done by Jesse & Will at Ice Block Films. Their shooting schedule spans a full year and mine are the first scenes to be captured.

We spent the weekend running around the city shooting my character larking around doing her things while I ad-libbed all of her lines. I am grateful to Jesse for being cool with my spontaneous rewriting of his script. I am a horrible memoriser. 

I'm not going to spoil the surprise and tell you anything about the film or my character, but the weekend culminated in an accordion concert in our living room. After we wrapped, Tod made us all dinner.

Jesse and Will are usually too busy with their creative work to socialise much, so to have them to myself for an entire weekend was delightful. We chatted up a storm on the trains, over a surprisingly wonderful lunch in Shimomaruko, and of course during dinner at home. It's likely I won't catch up with them again until I help them out behind the scenes on a shoot later this year and I can hardly wait.

Minimal Wardrobe Experiment

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I am trying out the idea of a very minimal wardrobe. I put away all of my clothes except five layered outfits, two pairs of pyjamas, and four each of socks and underwear. I've got one sweater, one fleece, one coat. Four pairs of shoes. It's been a week since I started and I am enjoying the benefits of not having to make too make decisions about what to wear.

I am even thinking I could get by with one less outfit. But then again, I might swap for something to train/exercise in. It's currently a little bit fluid as I discover what I really, truly need. For the moment, all of my clothes are stored in a big bag in the closet. I'm going to give it a month or so and then see if I can release them into the world to be loved by other people.

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Like I wrote last week, I'd actually like to have a personal uniform. So I've found myself a dressmaker, Melanie Uematsu at Sewing Circle, to remake one of my favorite dress/tunics in four different fabrics. 

I met with her today, got measured, and picked two lovely knits from the collection at her studio. I'll go shopping to find two more that coordinate. Once my uniforms are ready, I'll retire what is currently in my closet and everything in my wardrobe will mix or match with everything else. I will be able to dress in the dark with no mistakes.

This appeals to the minimalist in me. I do it when I travel, so why not do it at home, too?


Uniform

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As I go about simplifying and minimising my life, I've been reading about personal uniforms  - the efficiency of not having to think about what to wear. New day, same look. Steve Jobs and his mock turtleneck and jeans is a good example. 

I had a uniform for a while: leggings, short skirt and tank tops. It was a very hoopable outfit that I could also wear around Tokyo without embarrassment. But it's not me anymore. I don't hoop all the time; I'm aging and my body's changing. I would like something that allows for movement, but is also modest and if not age appropriate, at least a bit more forgiving of softer curves.

Having been in India recently (and expecting to go again), I am thinking something like soft pants and a long tunic. But not a traditional salwar kameez, because that is too specifically Indian and I am definitely not going to pull it off outside India. It would be like wearing a kimono in Thailand. Awkward cultural appropriation.

So I need a design. Time for some fashion sketching!



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