May 2004 Archives

Let's Make Ume Shu

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play videoLet's Make Ume Shu 4'38" (28.7 MB MP4)

umeshu.jpg...starring Tracey Northcott as the barkeep...

As promised, here's a how to video with everything you need to know to make ume shu (Japanese plum wine). Learn how to choose plums, wash and dry them, sterilse the bottles, layer the fruit with sugar and fill. It's surprisingly easy.

For your shopping and kitchen convenience, here's a recipe to print out.

Ume Shu

1 kg green ume (Japanese plums)
1 kg rock sugar
1.8 liters white liquor (35% alcohol)

Sterilise a 4 liter glass jar by filling it with boiling water, rinsing and drying carefully. Wash the ume, culling any fruit with bruises or broken skins. Dry the ume and remove the waxy bit in the stem end. Dry the fruit again. Layer ume and sugar in the jar, pour in the liquor. Seal tightly. Upend theh jar once a month until the sugar is completely dissolved. The ume shu is drinkable after 6 months, and fully mature at the end of a year.

Tutu helped us

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The ume shu video is taking longer than I expected, but to tide you over, here's a set of out-takes featuring Tracey's cat, Tutu.

play videoTutu 0'33" (3.4 MB MP4)

Ume shu

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February's plums are yielding fruit now, so Tracey & I spent the afternoon making ume-shu. Check tomorrow for a how-to video and a recipe.

Articulation

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creative perspectivesI've caught myself sending quite a few e-mails recently with writing full of trite and meaningless phrases. Most of them are "bread and butter" thank you notes which aren't really intended to be masterpieces of writing, but "I had a great time; let's get together again soon," may be the epitome of lazy writing.

What was great? Why do I want to get together again?

A few moments of critical thought always produce an answer. I pick out a detail of the event and make that the focus of my writing.

Saturday's barbecue was terrific. You are a master of the grill. Thanks for showing me the trick with the spray bottle--very clever! I hope you'll share your recipe for the lamb marinade, too. The combination of garlic and lavender was a delicious surprise. Hope we can get together for another barbecue soon--my place at the end of the month, maybe?

While it's still not prize-winning prose, it's an improvement over the original.

This technique works with holiday postcards, too. I delight in writing them. Give me a sunny beach, a few fruity drinks and a stack of picture postcards and I'll compose the full story of my day, written out in five sentence chunks. Everyone gets a different glimpse into what I'm experiencing and I don't get bored writing the same things over and over.

Dear M,
All the hotels along the beach offer guests sun robes and beach towels. Each hotel has a different color and design (our hotel towels are navy blue with white fish). While most of the guests stick close to the strip of beach near their own hotel, a few brave souls cross the invisible lines to sit on beaches filled with people in other robes. It's seaside integration!
Love, K

Dear J,
We snagged a beach cabana this morning after breakfast and have been enjoying a steady stream of pina coladas and mai tais delivered by a sun-kissed god with a gorgeous smile and no shirt. I'm not sure it's safe to swim when you're tipsy at 11 am, but I will have a careful dip in the ocean to cool myself off and build up an appetite for lunch. What decadence!
Love, K

Sure beats "Having a great time, wish you were here."

Chevre-stuffed chicken with macadamias

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recipe thursday We invented this the other night to cheer up an ailing friend. It's a bit more complicated that my usually dash-things-together style, but it's not at all difficult. Just take everything in stages.

We served this to five people after a hearty round of cheese and crackers and a pasta course, so two chicken breasts were plenty. We followed up with bread and salad and some fruit. I waddled home with a happy tummy.

Chevre-stuffed Chicken with Macadamias
serves 4-5

1 medium white onion, minced
5 plum/roma tomatoes, seeded and small diced
1/2 yellow pepper, minced
1 large bunch fresh basil, chopped
100 gr chevre (goat cheese)
1/2 cup macadamia nuts
splash Basalmic vinegar
2 skinless chicken breasts
1/4 cup white wine
water
flour
olive oil
salt & pepper

Saute the minced onion, yellow pepper and tomato in a little olive oil until soft. Season with salt & pepper, spread on a serving platter, and set aside.

Mash the chevre and basil together. Pepper to taste.

Blanch the macadamias, then chop them into large bits. In a small pan, toast until they turn golden, the splash in some balsamic vinegar and cook for 30 second. Remove from heat and set aside.

Cut a pocket into the center of each chicken breast, starting at the wide thick end and cutting towards the pointy end. Be careful not to cut through--only one hole is required.

Stuff the pocket with the chevre mixture. Use your fingers and tuck it in firmly, pushing it away from the opening. The cheese will melt as the chicken cooks, so you want to give it some room in there.

Dredge the chicken in flour. Saute in olive oil until the chicken is browned. Splash in the wine and allow the pan to settle, then add some water and cover the frying pan to steam the chicken. Depending on the thickness of the breast, this will take about 5-10 minutes. It's fine to lift the lid and check the progress by poking the chicken with your finger.

When the chicken feels done, remove the chicken from the pan. Slice the chicken into rounds to display the cheese and serve on top of the sauteed vegetables. Garnish with the macadamias.

Flowergirl

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From my mother:

"Do you remember the dress you wore in your uncle's wedding? Well, I kept that thing for 32 years for reasons unknown and about 6 months ago during a purge of things material sent it off to the thrift store.  Yesterday as I walked by the window of that thrift store, this is what greeted me."

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Oh, lovely. The little flowers on the polyester gauze overdress are flocked like wallpaper. I wonder what the bridesmaids wore?

Ex-pat wife

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Cutting through a park in the high-tone gaijin ghetto a few weeks back, I saw a lot of slim, blonde, tanned ladies pushing strollers. I shuddered and quietly exclaimed to my friend, "Ugh, the ex-pat wives!"

For my cattiness, I received a significant look and I realised that I'm an ex-pat wife, too. I don't think of myself as one, but my husband's job brought us here. I don't work (not so much that I could pay any significant bills, anyway). We have an apartment with an oven. I take art classes during the day. I often meet friends for lunch.

Cripes, I'm a lady who lunches!


THE LADIES WHO LUNCH
--Stephen Sondheim

(spoken) I'd like to propose a toast.

Here's to the ladies who lunch--
Everybody laugh.
Lounging in their caftans
And planning a brunch
On their own behalf.
Off to the gym,
Then to a fitting,
Claiming they're fat.
And looking grim,
'Cause they've been sitting
Choosing a hat.
Does anyone still wear a hat?
I'll drink to that.
And here's to the girls who play smart--
Aren't they a gas?
Rushing to their classes
In optical art,
Wishing it would pass.
Another long exhausting day,
Another thousand dollars,
A matinee, a Pinter play,
Perhaps a piece of Mahler's.
I'll drink to that.
And one for Mahler!
And here's to the girls who play wife--
Aren't they too much?
Keeping house but clutching
A copy of "Life"
Just to keep in touch.
The ones who follow the rules,
And meet themselves at the schools,
Too busy to know that they're fools.
Aren't they a gem?
I'll drink to them!
Let us all drink to them!
And here's to the girls who just watch--
Aren't they the best?
When they get depressed,
It's a bottle of Scotch,
Plus a little jest.
Another chance to disapprove,
Another brilliant zinger,
Another reason not to move,
Another vodka stinger.
Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhh!
I'll drink to that.
So here's to the girls on the go--
Everybody tries.
Look into their eyes,
And you'll see what they know:
Everybody dies.
A toast to that invincible bunch,
The dinosaurs surviving the crunch.
Let's hear it for the ladies who lunch--
Everybody rise!
Rise!
Rise! Rise! Rise! Rise! Rise! Rise! Rise!
Rise!

Lucky me.

Watch me walk

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I walked to Shinjuku to buy a book and brought my video camera along for the first time in quite a while. I condensed 90 minutes of travel into a 2 minute short. Not my most inspired work ever, but there are a few interesting things to see along the way and a personal note from me...

play videoKasuga to Shinjuku 2'05" (13.2 MB MP4)

The scent of freesia

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Tod treated me to a lovely bouquet of white flowers studded with smoke grass. The two stems of freesia scent the entire office with a citrus-sweet green tea aroma. Heavenly.

Self Portrait in dress

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My favorite photos of myself are the blurry ones. I made this dress I wore last night and was trying to document it. I didn't manage a good image of the dress, but this shot captured the colors.

Approaches

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creative perspectives"Attack life. When you drink a beer, drink the hell out of it," UltraBob suggested the other day. And that got me thinking.

How do you approach life? Do you go slowly, savoring all the details? Do you rush through activities to get to the next thing? Do you hang back from participating, preferring to critique everyone else? Do you jump in with gusto and enthusiasm? Glide through with style and grace? What other ways are there to live?

I think that most of us vary our approach depending on the situation. But what if you tried to live your life all one way? How would things turn out? Let's take an evening at home and run it through a few different ways:

Savor - You stash away your bag and coat and run a hand across the empty hangers to hear them jangle together. You stroke the dog gently, noting the silkiness of her ears and the rough patch of hair at the base of the tail. At the table, you contemplate every bite, compare flavors and pair wines to courses. Dinner lasts three hours.

Rush - You drop your bag and coat on the floor and put something in the microwave to cook. Dinner is on the table ten minutes after you arrive home. There is no way to shovel the food in fast enough and it's all swallowed without chewing. Then the TV is on and you're comatose.

Critique - After noticing that the closet needs to be rearranged you stand in the kitchen and offer advice while someone else cooks. The dog whines at the back door, eager to go for a walk and you complain that someone should have walked him earlier, but you don't take him out yourself. When dinner is served, you eat little more than a small taste, then suggest improvements.

Play - You wad your coat into a ball and toss it into the closet for two points. You race the dog around the house and tickle everyone you meet along the way. During dinner, your prawns dive into your water glass, you sculpt with fruit and fold your napkin into a hat.

Attack - You drop your bags and coat on the floor and embrace everyone in the house. You play with the dog until the stick you've been wailing across the yard breaks a neighbor's window. At dinner, table manners are cast aside so that food can be eaten with the utmost enthusiasm. "Hand to mouth" takes a new meaning. You drink the hell out of your beer.

Curry lamb marinade

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recipe thursdayThis marinade is heavenly for grilled lamb chops. It's mild but flavorful and not at all heavy-handed.

Curry lamb marinade
3 lemons, juiced
2 Tblsp olive oil
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp garam masala powder
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp tumeric
2 tsp salt
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 inch fresh ginger, minced
1 tsp fresh parsely, minced

Combine ingredients and marinate lamb for at least 2 hours.

Owari

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I bit the bullet, swallowed my guilt and shame, and quit my Japanese class. Last week's lesson had me near tears; I just wasn't getting the finer points of wake. Why put myself through that any longer?

So I wrote a note to Oyama sensei, explaining that I needed to take a break and maybe after a while I'd be able to to return to language study with a fresh enthusiasm (not bloody likely, really).

And this morning I got this reply (translated from her Japanese original, of course)

Dear Kristen. I received your mail. I'm very sad and it's such a shame but it can't be helped. Take a little break.

Thanks, Oyama sensei. For all your good instruction and for being so understanding.

Once around the palace

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I had a hankering for a very long walk today. It's been a while since I've gone out walking and my legs itched for a stretch. The day is grey and chilly--a nice contrast to yesterday's sticky humidity.

So after a bit of sushi in Kanda, I walked around the palace and then to home. It was a good two hour hike including a detour through Hibiya Park--about 8 km. I walked my 10,000 steps and then some today.

In a few minutes I'll be packing up my laptop, grabbing an umbrella (the grey sky has opened up to rain) and walking for another 2.5 km/45 minutes to Ochanomizu to sit in my favorite cafe and write for a while. Then dinner and a walk home.

I'll be very tired tomorrow.

Hanging

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fujimamas1.jpg

"Synchronicity" at FUJIMAMAS
New works by the RBR artists
May 17 - June 16, 2004

I've just returned from hanging my prints at Fujimamas. There are dozens of pieces by 20 different artists. They represent quite a range of styles, media, and talent.

This morning restaurant was abuzz with people sharing hammers, explaining how to slide the hooks up and down, and waiting for Lauren, the curator, to decide what went where. I think Lauren had a challenge on her hands--so many sizes and styles--not quite enough walls.

My prints are hanging upstairs. Two are paired in a curving corner in the private party space and one is in the hall near the toilet.

In amongst the hammering and questions were lots of over-blown ohs and ahs. The effusive praise these artists give one another sometimes seems fake. "Oooooooooo, these are BEAUTUIFUL!!" "I really LOVE your WORK!!" "Look how CUTE with all these colors!!"

I offered up a few "I like this one a lot" and "Your painting looks great in this space" but I couldn't bring myself to coo or exclaim. Should you happen to go to Fujimamas this month and catch a glimpse of my engravings, no praise required.

Mist

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When the rain is so fine that it's more a mist than drops, should you carry an umbrella?

I didn't. The walk home from the station was like being in a room with a vaporiser. My skin is moist and supple but my hair is frizzy beyond belief.

Able

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Yesterday as I sat on the stoop of a defunct shop, waiting to meet a friend, I heard a wild whoop coming from someone down the block.

A young man, slightly moon-faced and sporting a fringe of mustache, tottered along the street in a lime green t-shirt. He moved jerkily, the weight of his bent body pulling him along from step to step. His fist pumped the air and he brayed with joy. An attendant hovered close, arm extended for support or in case of a tumble.

I looked away, embarrassed by my curiosity and a little ashamed for being fully-functional. But as they passed by, I peeked again. His lopsided gait was explained by his braced shoes: feet in opposition and one ankle turned inward.

He was excited to be walking. I tracked forward with my eyes to see a wheelchair waiting for him 50 meters further on. As he approached it, his hoots became a happy wordless keening.

He dropped into the chair, grinning and accepting the congratulations and praise of his orderlies. I caught his eye and we exchanged broad smiles as he was turned and wheeled away.

Neglected color

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creative perspectivesLook around you. What colors predominate in your environment? My furniture is light wood, chrome and black, accented with green and red, sitting in rooms with pale walls and carpets. How about your wardrobe? My clothes are mainly shades of pink, maroon, olive, brown and black.

And what colors are missing?

Blue is the least represented color in my life. I can count the number of blue items in my house that I've purchased: 8. Strange, really since it's the favorite color of most Americans and Europeans according to the fascinating book Blue: The History of a Color by Michel Pastoureau.

Blue is the color of calmness, repose and unity. Taking that a bit farther, Color Wheel Pro says light blue is associated with health, healing, tranquility, understanding, and softness; dark blue represents knowledge, power, integrity, and seriousness.

According to an article about color used on websites, "[Blue] generates feelings of tranquility, love, acceptance, patience, understanding and cooperation. Its negative qualities if used inappropriately are fear, coldness, passivity and depression." Feng Shui theory says blue is energy on the decline.

So it seems you can make blue mean just about anything. There's a quite comprehensive lesson on color meanings if you're interested in learning more.

Today I'm going to experiment with blue. I can't paint the apartment, but I have stuck some colored paper on my bare windows and the wall near my desk. I changed the system colors on my computer (Wow, the Mac OS "blue" theme is so strongly colored!) I will try to find something blue in my closet. I think I have some blue nail polish for my toes.

Wonder what turn my creativity will take today? Calmer? Or colder?

Muffaletta

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recipe thursdayI'm not sure whether I prefer this sandwich or its name. It's a heaven combination of olive salad and luncheon meats on a big round bread--a Sicilian style sandwich from New Orleans. Someday I'll get to Central Grocery on Decatur Street to try the original but until then, here's how I make a muffaletta. It's best to start a day ahead with the olive salad, but not necessary.

Muffaletta
serves 4-6 depending on the bread

1 cup black olives, chopped
1 cup green olives, chopped
1 red pepper
1 or 2 cloves garlic, minced
olive oil
1 loaf of round bread, Italian or "country" style
120 g (1/4 lb) or thereabouts:
mozzarella cheese
provolone cheese
mortadella
ham
salami

Using a fork as a skewer, roast the red pepper over a gas flame until the skin blackens. Allow to cool, then chop into 1/4 inch pieces. Combine the olives, roasted red pepper, garlic and a generous amount of olive oil. Allow to sit for at least a few hours, and preferably a full day.

Slice the loaf in half, and shallowly scoop out the top. Toast both halves lightly. Drizzle the bread with some of the oil from the olive salad, then arrange the cheeses on the bottom half and put back under the broiler to melt. On top of the melted cheese, layer the meats and then top with a mound of olive salad.

You can also make this with regular Italian bread or baguettes, but the round bread is so much more fun that I never do. Leftover olive salad is the perfect base for Kristen's Putanesca.

Domains

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A friend commented the other night, "Ah, that'd be a good domain name" in the exact same tone I reserve for "That would be a great band name."

Whoa. What a paradigm shift.

When my brain stopped spinning, I paused to think about it and, of course, it makes sense in the present day and in a practical way, too. It sure is easier to register a domain than it is to get a band together or cut an album. I wonder how many domains will be based on precocious notions over gin and tonics.

On a related note, Tod's just renewed our domains, so mediatinker.com and zousan.com are secure for another five years. I identify a little too much with my domain name--mediatinker isn't just my website, it's my domain.

Two al fresco meals

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Mother Nature reads my weblog, apparently. She cleared the skies and brought us the warmest day of the year so far. (If summer were always like today--28 degrees and only slightly humid--I'd be a happy girl.)

This afternoon, we lunched in Hibiya Park under a wisteria arbor near one of the ponds and watched salarymen and pensioners interacting with the turtles. I brought muffaletta (check for the recipe on Thursday) and plenty of fresh vegetables and fruit, and a few cookies that a crow snatched from our picnic as we stood to look out over the pond. Sneaky crow.

This evening, we met Jim & Yuka at Canal Cafe in Iidabashi. It's a lovely spot on the outer moat of the Imperial Palace with a view across to the Chuo and Sobu line trains. There's a rather expensive restaurant and a more reasonably priced dock-side bar. We quaffed some wine and then walked up Kagurazaka to Sofra, a Turkish restaurant. The food is good, but overpriced and the service is awful. Thankfully, we missed the belly dancing. Sadly, there aren't a lot of options for Turkish food in Tokyo, so we'll probably go back.

On its way

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We've shifted from the alternating cool and warm days of April to the alternating blue and grey skies of May.

Tsuyu, the rainy season, has already begun in Okinawa (about 10 days earlier than average) and though it won't officially start here until June, it's obviously on its way. The past few days have offered a preview--grey skies, sprinkling-then-pouring rain and dull heavy air.

It's good for the plants but not for my spirits. Even though I love rain, endless days of grey get to be a bit much.

Still, tsuyu beats summer. I'm already thinking ahead to August with a certain amount of dread. I want to escape the city to somewhere less miserable. A summer rental in the mountains or at the seaside...

Brownies by Seth

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Seth
's in my kitchen making brownies as I write this. He and Tod are discussing karate--I hear him talking about blocking, guarding, and leverage points--so I wonder how much brownie making is occurring. I am sure the conversation it is but a momentary distraction and I will soon smell the sweet scent of baking chocolate.

This is not the first Seth to bake brownies in my kitchen. (Hi, Seth & Tara!) And I hope it's not the last. Brownies by Seth are a special event. So to any stray Seths out there with brownie recipes, come on over and enjoy the facilities.

What a nice end to a slightly frustrating day working on a print ad project.

Tattoo trouble

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For the very first time since having my skin colored at the Meeting of the Marked convention in 1993, my tattoo has caused me trouble.

On Thursday, I decided to get off my lazy butt and join the Tokyo Dome Fitness Club. I took the tour and was filling in the application when an employee came over and waved some sheets of paper at the woman who was helping me. A conversation ensued--the rules, look at her arm, we can't!

And I was turned away. "I'm very sorry, but our rules say no tattoos. And it's the rule, so I'm sorry. There's really no excuse but it's the rule. It's Japan, you know. Very sorry."

So I seek a more tolerant gym. Maybe I will be working out and swimming with the four-fingered crowd. That's OK by me, I just have to find them.

Date yourself

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creative perspectivesSometimes it's a challenge to get away from the normal routine of work, family, household chores and all the other things we fill our time with. But stepping outside that routine can kickstart your creative juices.

Take out your calendar and pencil in a date with yourself. If you can manage it, take a full day or a whole evening, but even a long lunch is fine. You're going on a date with yourself.

Now, what to do? Plan your date just like you would with a friend or lover. Maybe you'd like to do something actively creative: strum your guitar, write a letter, take photos, make paper, sketch flowers. Or maybe you need some outside input: visit a museum, watch a movie, walk in the park, read a book. Or perhaps something indulgent is what you crave: put on a face mask, paint your toenails, sit in a bubble bath.

Whatever you choose, treat yourself nicely. Enjoy. Take note of what you're doing...drink in the details. What you put into your date will come back in your creative output later on.

Pork with Honey and Yuzu

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recipe thursdayMay is the perfect month for al fresco dining in Tokyo. The weather is generally clear with nights that present a slightly cool contrast to the warm days. Needless to say, we've been busy with the grill this week and I have a great combination of flavors to share. It was inspired by a conversation with a friend but in my enthusiasm, I didn't measure when I put it together. Luckily for all of us, marinades are pretty forgiving so adjust to your liking.

Pork with Honey and Yuzu
serves 2

2 pork chops or cutlets
3-4 Tblsp yuzu vinegar
1/2 tsp dried yuzu peel
1/2 tsp dried red pepper (togarashi) rings
1/2 tsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper

glaze
2 Tblsp honey
yuzu vinegar
togarashi

Rub the pork with salt, pepper, sugar, yuzu peel and togarashi. Sprinkle with yuzu vinegar and allow to marinate for a few hours. Thin the honey with enough yuzu vinegar make it easy to brush onto the meat; and add a sprinkle of dried red pepper and set aside.

Grill the meat. Just before removing from the heat, brush with the honey glaze and allow to carmelise. Be careful not to burn the honey.

I served this with tarragon-herbed grilled zucchini and basmati rice pilaf.

Shobu bath

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Golden Week winds down today with Children's Day, the last in a string of spring holidays.

In our household we have no reason to fly carp streamers (it's traditional to hang out one for each boy in the family) but thanks to my friend Elizabeth Andoh's timely Taste of Culture newsletter, I did partake of another holiday ritual, shobu yu.

Shobu are the leaves and stems of Japanese iris. Shobu is also a homonym for victory and for warlike spirit, making a shobu bath just the thing on a day that celebrates boy children. A shobu bath is supposed to ward off illness, too. I soaked a nice long time, and expect the benefits to last until next year.

I made the bath even more relaxing by dotting the room with the lovely (waterproof!) electric candles that Jim & Yuka gave Tod for his birthday yesterday. Their reflections in the water with the floating reeds made me think I was sitting in a crystal clear pond. I tried standing the reeds upright and ducking my head under the water to pretend I was a fish, but there's not enough room to maneuver in the tub.

Self-portrait in cocktail shaker

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Sleeping fast

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May 1955: my grandfather, Uncle Ed, Aunt Faye and my grandmother pose together during Ed & Faye's wedding at my grandparent's home in New Jersey.

I hardly knew my Aunt Faye; I'm not even sure how she was related to me. My mother's mother's sister-in-law? A daughter of my grandmother's bevy of older sisters? I really cannot say. My sister keeps track; she knows all of the distant cousins. I'm hopeless when it comes to family connections.

Anyway, Aunt Faye was a character. She was a zaftig woman, funny, loud, and brash. I never saw her without her "face" on--cakey foundation, high arches of pencilled eyebrow, a sky's worth of blue shadow. Her hair was platinum cotton candy. And she loved butterfly designs in jewelry and clothing. To put it a bit unkindly, the campiest drag queen would have admired of her style.

Yesterday I was thinking of her, remembering how she used to say she could "sleep fast." Meaning she would stay up late (carousing, I presume) and get up early, ready for a new day. I don't know how she did it, but I think I may have the same skill.

Really, I seem to do everything fast. Sleep, work, walk, talk, think. I'm living my life at 78 rpm. I wonder if that means I'll get everything done early and die young. Or maybe I'll just end up doing more than everyone else. Or perhaps I will slow down.

My experiences with Aunt Faye were confined to my childhood--intersections of our visits to my grandparents' house. I don't remember seeing her beyond the time I was ten, though she lived another 20 years or more past that so I'm sure I must have.

I wonder what Aunt Faye did with all of her extra time?

*omie

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anomie (n.) Personal state of isolation and anxiety resulting from a lack of moral standards in society.

bonhomie (n.) A pleasant and affable disposition; geniality.

Anomie is a fashionable word these days. I don't know who started its revival, some media pundit in America I surmise, but I keep running across it in commentary and news articles.

Anyway, anomie wasn't familiar to me and every time I read it, I thought of bonhomie. Taking in the context, 'geniality' wasn't even close to the right meaning. So I referred to the dictionary. As it turns out, I'm glad I looked it up because it's one of those philosophical words that refuses to stick in my vocabulary. (For a good laugh, go ahead and ask me the difference between sophist and solipsist.)

But my twisted brain was making a valid connection--anomie and bonhomie are the only two words commonly used in English that end in 'omie.' At least that I can find.

So here's a new philosophy (call it what you will): If people would embrace bonhomie as their personal standard, the world would have a lot less anomie.

Sheep story

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In another lifetime, or so it seems, I spent a lot of time with sheep and goats.

My dear friends, Frank and Louise, raise wool sheep, angora goats, and herds of cats on their small farm south of Pittsburgh. From the time I dated Frank's son, Sam, at university until I left for Japan, I spent many weekends on the farm helping with the fencing, mucking barns, cleaning goats' feet and chasing sheep around the pastures to give them medicine.

It was hard physical work, but never too hard--mainly tiring, satisfying and fun. We cooked crazy foods, drank a lot of bourbon, and generally enjoyed life in the very best ways. I love Frank & Louise and the farm and I miss those weekends.

As I read this article on NEWS.com.au, I recalled a lot of happy memories:

Hermit sheep loses years of wool

sheep.jpg A VERY woolly New Zealand sheep that survived six years in the wild was today heading back into the hills near naked after his heavy fleece was shorn off on live worldwide television.

The merino wether was shorn of nearly 27 kilograms of fleece now being auctioned for the cancer charity Cure Kids.

Owner John Perriam said today that after the experience the sheep, named Shrek, was in "fine fettle".

"He's quite incredible. His personality has changed, he's almost saying 'thanks mate, I want to go back to the hills now' and he was pawing at the doors of the shed this morning," Perriam told Radio New Zealand.

Merinos, which produce a fine wool used in clothing, are usually sheared once a year, but Shrek had managed to avoid muster for six years until found in a remote part of Bendigo Station in Central Otago near the Southern Alps in New Zealand's South Island.

Shearer Peter Casserly, 56, took more than 20 minutes to take the fleece off.

"The fleece was very heavy and pulling the skin up so it would have been very easy to cut him; that's why I was only snipping away slowly. I couldn't put in many long blows," he said.

Casserly, who has been shearing since he was 17, holds the world blade shearing record of 353 sheep shorn in a nine-hour day.

27 kg is a lot of fleece. The average merino fleece is around 7 kg and fills the volume of about three fluffy bed pillows.

After shearing, Louise always had a few greasy fleeces wrapped in sheets tucked up into the loft above the kitchen. I never got to shear the sheep. Louise claimed that as her right--I think she worried that anyone else might nick the sheep.

But I did wash, card, comb and dye wool, make felt, and spin lumpy yarn. Never managed to get the hang of knitting, though.

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