Monthly Archives: January 2015

The link is working!

That’s what I get for not checking the link on yesterday’s post. It was brought to my attention that the link to the eighth chapter of Adette was not working. It is now working!

If you don’t want to go back to the other post, you can click here.

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Poking wool with needles is fun!

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Japan is a very crafty place to be. People love to make all kinds of things from jewelry to food shaped like other kinds of food. Yes I will do a post about this.

Unfortunately, this means that I have discovered a new possible obsession. Felting. No not the fabric felt. I’m not sewing felt together, or even gluing it together. I’m actually taking pieces of raw wool, stabbing them with a needle, and turning them into shapes. Adorable shapes!

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On a whim Saturday, I purchased this kit. Yes, that’s corgi. I know, it’s cute right? I’d seen it before, but wasn’t really sure what you did with it.

Adam and I had a few minutes to kill inside the train station on Saturday. We wandered up and stumbled onto a great little sewing shop. Inside was a row of these kits, which I’d seen before. Thankfully I have a husband that understands that sometimes you just need to spent five whole dollars on something silly.

Since I still wasn’t sure what to do with the thing I decided to do some research on what these felting projects were. Below is a video of my next project. I say next because I watched the video and then discovered that the store I normally go to has it in stock. Yay! If you’re still curious, and who wouldn’t be these are fascinating to watch, just hop over to youtube and do a quick search for needle felting.

It sounds bizarre, but all needle felting is, is taking raw wool, pinching it into something close to the desired shape, and then stabbing it a couple hundred times. The specially designed needle pulls the fibers together and pulls them tight. You’d be surprised how well the shapes hold up.

This is a picture of the needles you can use. You can use either one needle at a time,

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or you can use one of these guys. It lets you use multiple needles at once so the fibers will felt faster.

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This is my first project. It’s a corgi! Yes, it’s a bit oblong and strange, but come on it’s my first project.

Here’s to a new crafting obsession!

Adette Price Undercover Witch Chapter 8: Basket Case

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The picture is actually more awkward than the chapter. So, yeah…moving on.

Karl strained against the leather leash Adette had hastily acquired. It was his silent way of showing his disapproval of such a barbaric invention. Dogs should be allowed to roam free. He’d said it enough times that now that exact phrase kept rolling around in Adette’s head. She’d tried to explain her reasoning, but he simply wasn’t having it. Since he couldn’t talk in public, he settled for pulling her arm off in protest instead.

The basket on her arm threatened to slide down her arm which, of course, was Karl’s fault. Vegetables rolled around the bottom. Two long, green onions shifted. Their long ends flopped across the wicker. Adette had just managed to get everything right when Karl decided to tug again.

“I’m going to tie you to a tree and leave you there if you don’t knock it off,” she said through tightly clenched teeth. An awkward smile stayed plastered to her face as she tried to hide the fact that she was talking. Karl slowed begrudgingly, but they seemed to collect a few stares anyway as they made their way down the tiny main street.

At first, Adette hadn’t liked that she needed to get the basket back to Lana, but after a while she realized that it was a much needed in with some of the villagers. She couldn’t play the outsider forever. Based on her vague letter, she had no idea how long she might be living in the village. Lana was as good a person to start with as any. At least they were close in age.

Ahead, several roads split off from the corners of the square. The road on the right led to several of the larger family cottages. On the corner of the left road was her destination, the bakery. Even from across the square, Adette could smell bread and pastries baking. Behind the large windows, customers were buying things for lunch and dinner.

“I hope this doesn’t blow up in my face,” Adette said half to herself and half to Karl who, of course, couldn’t answer. She shifted the basket to her other arm as she reached the door to the bakery. Karl was already looking up at her, waiting for her to say the words.

“Karl,” Adette’s eyebrows rose in warning. “Sit. Stay.” He huffed but his fluffy dog butt reluctantly sank to the ground. “Good dog.” Adette scratched behind his ears for a few moments in apology before heading for the bakery door.

Adette stepped into the warm sunlit bakery shop room. Customers bustled about attempting to pretend as though they didn’t notice her standing there. They managed to do this for a few minutes before a few gave up and simply stared outright. Adette clutched the basket and stepped toward the counter.

“Is Lana in the back? I wanted to talk to her for just a moment, if that wouldn’t be a problem.” Adette stood awkwardly at the front counter for a full minute before the large man standing behind it finally reacted.

“Sure, let me go get her.”

From the way he spoke, Adette got the distinct feeling that the man felt she might explode at any second. A hush fell over the entire bakery. The patrons weren’t even bothering to hide the fact that they were watching her. Adette’s eyes floated to the ceiling. It was the only place where she wasn’t going to find a pair of staring eyes.

Lana came out first, looking confused. She stopped dead when she got a look at Adette and her father nearly ran into her.

“Oh,” she said and then saw the basket. “I’m taking a short break, Pa. You can hold up without me for five minutes, can’t you?”

The man’s jaw nearly landed on the floor. Lana didn’t wait for him to collect his brains. She grabbed hold of Adette’s arm and practically dragged her into the back of the shop. When they were clear of the majority of prying eyes, she pulled the curtain closed. Adette could hear Lana’s father gruffly ordering the remaining patrons to order something or find somewhere else to be.

“Are you mad?” Lana whispered angrily, “People already think I’m a flake. Why did you have to come barging in here like that?”

Adette held the basket full of onions out lamely.

“I only wanted to return your basket. I found it on one of my errands and didn’t want to be in trouble if it was missing.”

 

Nine random things I miss

 

It’s been a lovely holiday break, but it’s time to get down to writing in this New Year. Last year was all about getting to Japan. I’ve done that, so it only makes sense that this year should be about writing.

I think I’d like to start off this year’s blog posts by talking about some things I’ve learned to miss in the short time I’ve been in a foreign country. Before you all get mad at me, I’m not going to include things like my family and my dog. Obviously, I miss both of those things. This is a list for the things you don’t realize that you’ll miss. Obviously my list is different from other peoples. I did plenty of research before coming here, but you can never find everything. So, without anymore explaining, here we go. In ranking order…..

 

  1. Soup Stock

This is one I didn’t expect to miss. Actually I didn’t ever think I’d be in a place that I couldn’t find this, but here I am.

You know whole section of the soup aisle dedicated to all manner of broths and stocks. It has beef broth, chicken broth, chicken broth with half the salt, organic broths, stocks with vegetables added, stocks made just from vegetables, and many other varieties I don’t care to bore you with. That doesn’t exist here, and I didn’t realize how many recipes I regularly made required that most essential item until I get it any more.

Thankfully you can get a chicken bouillon substitute, so I can still make pot pies and the like. Beef broth, on the other hand, is still something I simply cannot get. I’ve looked in several specialty stores. Not a single bouillon cube has presented itself to me.

God I’d kill for some poutine right now, but you know what you need to make poutine gravy? Do you? Beef broth!

  1. Buffalo Wings

I blame my husband for missing this food at all, but I do. You can get chicken wings here. They’re delicious. They’re equally as delicious as many things I’ve ever eaten, but most places make the same sort of wings.

Maybe it’s not fair to say I miss wings so much as I miss the sauce. I miss walking into a Buffalo Wild Wings (yes, lame, I know) and choosing from a list of twenty or more different sauces. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

  1. Un-throttled phone service

Yeah this is totally a first world problem. I’m aware of that. I’m aware of the fact that I was spoiled with my fancy unlimited un-throttled data, but I miss it. Here you get to choose how long your high speed data lasts. I have 5g, which doesn’t last long. For those first glorious gigs the speed is blazing and amazing. After you get through that, it’s not so bad. As you use it, and the gigs start piling it gets slower and slower and slower until you’re lucky to load a webpage at all let alone in a timely fashion. Yes, I’m lame for complaining about this.

  1. The Library

I am a professed book worm. Everyone who knows me even a little knows that. One of my greatest simple pleasures is wandering aimlessly among the stacks. I love the smell and even the look of all those books waiting for me to read them. This isn’t quite so awesome when you can’t read all of the books your wandering through.

  1. Food Variety

I love Japanese food of just about every kind, but there is a certain amount of sameness that’s unfortunately prevalent. All of the food is very good, but it’s unfortunately varied. One nice thing about being in the States is that if you want Irish-Mexican fusion in a gastro-pub you can find it. That is in some ways one of its downfalls but whatever. Growing up being able to just go find anything has definitely spoiled me.

  1. Christmas…

Well ok, technically Christmas still happens here. After some thought though, I’ve decided that Christmas in Japan is a bit like St. Patrick’s day in America. It’s an excuse to play around with a culture that you like, but which ultimately is borrowed and have some fun.

I think it’s great that Christmas cheer and spirit is being spread around, but being here and seeing how it’s celebrated has lead me to reexamine exactly what the Christmas holiday is. In short, it’s our equivalent of the Japanese New Year which is a time to go home and spend time with family. That unfortunately means that Christmas has become our New Year for the Japanese people. You know, that holiday where you go out and party?

This sort of Christmas celebration rings very hollow especially since Christmas Eve is the focus of all the craziness and not Christmas day. On Christmas morning, when Adam and I ventured out, nearly every single Christmas decoration had been replaced by those for the New Year. The only remaining decorations were those still in the process of being taken down. That was weird.

  1. Cheap Beer (That won’t give you a headache that can slay a walrus)

For some reason I cannot begin to understand most likely having to do with food standards laws and the price of importing resources, beer is not cheap. What’s more amazing is that everyone seems to drink a lot of it.

A cheap beer here is generally around 350 yen ($3.50). The places that sell beer for those prices aren’t plentiful and they usually only exist for people just wanting to drink a lot of cheap beer. Not my kind of thing really. Generally most other places start their beer prices somewhere around 550 yen and go from there. That means that a cheap beer is usually around five bucks if not more. Better quality beer generally starts somewhere around the 1000 yen ($10) range and goes from there. If you’re going into an import bar, the prices can really get prohibitive.

The strange twist ending in all of this is that alcohol is strangely cheap. Good whiskies and scotch sell here for nearly half the price I’m used to seeing in the States. People drink that here, sure, but overwhelmingly people drink beer high prices and all.

  1. Well insulated spaces

This thin directly contributes to number one. Most buildings in Japan are built of concrete. It’s cheap and easy to replace or rebuild. In a culture that has as many earthquakes as it does, it makes sense. It is not, however, a good way to make warm buildings. Add single paned windows, sliding doors, and wooden floors into the mix and what you have, my friends, is an ice box.

My apartment has a great heater. Unfortunately, running it can be a bit of a drain on the electricity bill, and, due to the lack of insulation, it only takes about forty five minutes for the temperature to drop ten or more degrees.

The cold cave effect is wonderful in the hot months though so there’s that at least.

  1. Being Warm

Yes, living in Texas for the last five years has ruined me a bit for cold weather, but I grew up a hardy northern girl. We don’t get cold like other girls. At least, that’s I though until I moved to Japan.

Normally winter is a mad dash, in warm clothing, between one nicely warmed space to another. The only real time that you have to really deal with the cold is getting in or out of your car or if you have to do something outside for longer than five minutes.

In Japan, there is very much a heat it only if you are using it mentality. You know what, that makes perfect sense. Save energy only heat the spaces you use. That’s a great mentality except that every conceivable space in between is the same temperature as, or sometimes actually is, the outdoors.

Most days you will see me, every student, and every teacher shuffling very quickly to their destination in search of heat. I often feel like a bug hunkered down, running for the warmth to survive. It’s not pleasant.