Sunday, November 26, 2006

My first pair of socks

I finished my first pair of socks for my Cutie!
From Sensational Knitted Socks by Charlene Schurch, these are a 4-stitch Garter Rib, knit down from the cuff.
It is a great book, with all the information necessary for a beginner to knit a sock, and told me exactly what to do.
It has patterns for many socks, rated Easy, Intermediate, and Experienced.
I started with the first Easy one, and am thinking of working my way up to Experienced.
Of course, Hubbo likes the big green sock on the cover.
Obviously an Experienced sock.
And like father like son, Cutie wants me to knit him "the No. 3 sock", meaning the black and white Maze sock on the cover, the third one from the left. Also an Experienced sock.
I told them they need to be patient with me while I learn more sock knitting skills!

Friday, November 24, 2006

My meathead hat with Doraemon

This is my meathead hat for Larissa's knit along. Cutie chose the Doraemon attached to the brim. I wanted to embellish it with something a little more classier, but my LYS had very little to choose from, and it wasn't like I could knit or crochet a cute flower for him..... Because I followed the pattern for an adult size hat, using double strands of Lamb's Pride Bulky and 10mm needles, I didn't bother to check about gauge, and it came out very small. I didn't realize I knit THAT tight. It is almost too small for Cutie, but he likes it enough to have worn it to Kindergarten yesterday: The main part is Oatmeal, and the stripe and pompom is in Brown Heather. I had fun using a pompom maker. It was a very quick knit; done in one night!
Kiddo has a great time bobbing his head back and forth, "I'm making a ball bounce on my head!"

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving!

Even though Thanksgiving is an American holiday, and we don't live there now, I wanted to celebrate it since Cutie learned about it at Kindergarten. Today was also a holiday in Japan. Very similar to Thanksgiving Day, Kinrou-kansha-no-hi is literally, A Day To Be Thankful for Hard Work. It's November 23rd every year, not the fourth Thursday of November. But this year, it turned out to be the same as the American Thanksgiving Day. So, what a perfect excuse to roast a turkey! I had to order an American frozen turkey at the supermarket in advance. 3980 yen ($34) for an 8-pound turkey. It is probably an insane price, but I don't remember what turkeys cost in the States. The people in the meat department at the supermarket seemed VERY happy to get this for me. I thought they would get a couple orders, but I guess not. It came out like this:

and tasted very good! This year I made mashed potatoes, roasted green beans & radicchio with garlic, and wild rice stuffing with apples and cranberries. All the recipes are from And turkey gravy (Lawry's), and canned cranberry jelly spiked with a dash of Grand Marnier, and store bought bread. The cute Crate & Barrel placemats with colorful buttons were a gift from my sis (correction: my sister's husband, then boyfriend. Sorry Garrett!). The striped ones are el cheapos from Ikea.

The wine was this year's Beaujolais-Village Nouveau, from a Domaine Bel Avenir. I have been hearing good things about this year's Beaujolais, and I agree. I liked how it was full of fresh and fruity flavors and aromas, the beautiful bluish purple color.

Cutie made dessert! Fruit Parfait, following the recipe he got from an event at his cooking school. Here he is in action, mixing raspberry jam with lemon juice, after cutting the kiwi fruit and counting the pieces to see if there were enough for the 6 of us.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

The tooth fairy left 100 yen (about 85 cents)

The highlight of Cutie's last weekend was that he lost his first tooth. He was VERY happy, since most of his friends have already lost a tooth or two. After I took this picture, he immediately asked me to "put it on the blog". He seems to enjoy seeing pictures of himself on the computer.
I thought about how long it has been since the last benchmark of him growing up. In the first 2 years of a child's life, so much goes on: they sit, they crawl, they eat, they walk, they talk, they start potty training. But I realized that it had been a long time since such a big parenting event had happened. He started kindergarten in September, but it didn't feel like such a big deal since he had been going to the same preschool everyday for the previous year, and everyday life didn't change at all.

He modeled his first sock for me last night, while watching Gatten, one of his favorite shows on NHK. He showed an amazing level of concentration watching the show, which was about how to make delicious egg custard. You will probably be seeing the photos pretty soon.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Bread Baking Class #1

I recently signed up at ABC Cooking Studio. They offer classes in cooking, bread, and cakes, and I am going to learn how to make bread from scratch, without using any mixers or blenders. What I like about this cooking school is that they offer classes every day, every 2 hours from about 10 am to 8 pm, and you just make a reservation online or by phone, whenever and wherever you like. Out of the 83 branches throughout Japan, there are 16 branches in Tokyo, all in convenient locations near the station. Maximum 5 students per class, and everyone makes their own bread by themselves, from measuring the flour to kneading the dough, so it's really hands-on, which I thought is necessary to really learn how to do this. The classrooms are clean and bright and nice and new, and most of the staff are (relatively) young women. (During my free trial lesson, I asked why they don't take male students, and the teacher said there were several episodes where the male students "came for purposes other than learning how to cook".)

The cost for Bread Course Class A, (if this were an American cooking school, it would be called Bread making 101) which are 7 basic classes that everyone must take first, is 28,350 yen (about $240), but I got 50% off that, yay! However, what pisses me off is that they charge 12,600 yen (about $106) for the nyukaikin (a one time only admissions fee, or a membership fee. Literally, "money to enter the club"). I HATE this system in Japan. I mean, what am I paying for? What do I get for 12,600 yen? I would be much happier if they got rid of the nyukaikin, and raised the price of each class by 1,000 yen or something. If they are going to give me a 50% off discount on the tuition, why do they charge full price for the stupid nyukaikin??? My guess is, if I decide not to take the classes, they are required by some kind of consumer law to give me back my money for the tuition, but they can keep the nyukaikin? Japanese companies are SO behind the U.S. on concepts like transparency, accountability, and disclosure, it makes me sick. Anyway, I regard this nyukaikin system pretty much as legalized fraud, and definitely do not support this!

This school CLEARLY targets beginners, as you can see from the recipes they hand out:

I am OK with the illustrated step by step instructions,but the style of the drawings and the handwriting make me feel as if I am back in junior high. I don't like how the recipe leaves a blank space, on purpose, for the temperature of the oven and how long you are supposed to bake the bread. Again, as if I am in junior high and such a gimmick is necessary to make me pay attention during class, duh! So for this Almond Crown, the teacher told us to write this down: 14-17 minutes at 190 C for an electric oven, 9-12 minutes at 180 C for a gas oven, and 13-16 minutes at 190 C for an internet oven. I thought, what the heck is an internet oven? I can turn it on and preheat it on my way home with my cell phone, so it's already hot when I arrive with a raw chicken or something??? I have never actually seen or heard of an oven like that, but I can easily see that happening soon. The technology is already here, it must be just a matter of cost and demand. Either way, that sounds like an electric oven, not what I have. So I ask, what about gas convection ovens? The teacher didn't seem to know what a convection oven was, and asked me if it's the type of oven that hot air circulates inside. I said yes. She said those are internet ovens, so 13-16minutes at 190 C. I knew, from the free trial class, that the teachers here are not real cooking professionals, but just female home chefs like me, and I went into this expecting nothing more. But I expected the bread teacher to at least have HEARD OF a convection oven. Oh well. I see it as a great way to learn different types of bread,and getting hands-on practice of kneading dough. Yes, I could do this at home, but I know I won't. It's the same thing as paying for membership at a gym. You could just run, or do pilates with a dvd at home, but I rarely, if ever, do that. The guilt that comes from paying good money is a big motivational factor. Anyway, I think I did a great job, considering it was my first real class. :)

Next class is butter rolls. I think it's amazing how they organized everything so you are done in 2 hours. I'm going to see how the first 7 classes go, and decide if I want to continue to the next 7 lessons in Class B.

Reaching out of my comfort zone

After reading the Harlot's books, and seeing and reading so much on other knitter's blogs, I decided I want to give sock knitting a try. I've knit a couple of hats, so dpns don't scare me, and I like knitting in the round. But scary terms like "gusset" and "turning the heel" made me shy. First, I searched for some books on amazon. There are several knitting books about socks, and I read all of the reviews on both and, and chose one book. What amazed me is that there are NONE, absolutely no sock knitting books in the Japanese language. So, after watching videos on, and reading the Socks 101 tutorial on, and seeing my knitting buddy S's beautiful socks, I decided to give it a try. This is my Class Sock from Sensational Knitted Socks.

I get it now. There are some parts that are a little uneven, and I haven't washed it yet. But I knit a sock! Needless to say, I am VERY proud of this one sock. I like how there are so many techniques and patterns to knit, but how it's small enough to finish relatively quickly. I was thinking of knitting a pair and giving it to Mia, but I changed my mind. I am not making the second sock, and I want to keep this one just because it is my FIRST . Mia will not be walking for at least 11 months; she can wait with the big blankie while I knit a couple of socks, non?

It has been a little over a week since I added the Neo Counter thing in my sidebar that shows what country my blog readers are from. Right now, it says I have had 124 visitors from 13 countries. I have no idea how this works, but it is SO cool to see so many different flags, and to see the numbers change everytime I look! I think it must be counting everytime I visit myself, since I cannot believe I really had this many visitors. Thanks so much for dropping by! I would love it if you left a short comment!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Julia Roberts to star in a knitting movie

This piece of news caught my eye today on Yahoo!:

Julia Roberts Busy on Friday Night
by Natalie Finn Thu Nov 2, 12:27 PM ET
Los Angeles (E! Online) - Since she helped make knitting chic again, it's only fair that
Julia Roberts gets the chance to spin a good yarn. The Oscar winner, who incidentally was one of the first celebs spied knitting between takes before it became "the latest thing," has signed on to star in The Friday Night Knitting Club, Daily Variety reported Thursday. Roberts' Red Om production company will also share producing duties on the Universal drama, based on an upcoming novel by Kate Jacobs about a single mom who runs a Manhattan knitting shop where the regulars gather once a week, Steel Magnolias-style, to chat about life and work on their latest projects. Building an indomitable support system in the process, we assume. While Roberts has taken time off from the joys of motherhood to lend her voice to The Ant Bully and present pal George Clooney with the American Cinematheque Award last month, Phinnaeus and Hazel's mom has been largely absent from theaters since Ocean's Twelve. Pretty Woman fans will be happy to hear then that The Friday Night Knitting Club is just one of three projects in the works for Roberts. She's currently in Morocco shooting the political drama Charlie Wilson's War, costarring Tom Hanks and Philip Seymour Hoffman, and was recently tapped to star in the film version of the memoir Eat, Pray, Love, which Nip/Tuck creator Ryan Murphy will adapt for the big screen. But first, another Roberts teaser: Charlotte's Web, with the actress voicing the sage title character, hits theaters Dec. 20.

I’m not particularly a huge Julia Roberts fan, but I have seen and like most of her movies, and it seems like it will be a fun, Ya-Ya Sisterhood kind of a chic flick set in Manhattan, with lots of knitting! Sounds like a must-see movie for moi. So I went to amazon, but the book won’t be out until January 18th. It would be great if this movie is a big hit, and more people take up knitting!

I have also been eyeing the book Eat, Pray, Love since this spring, but I am so behind on my reading list that I don’t think I will ever catch up! I am almost done with Julie and Julia, a book I borrowed from my friend S. But first, I will be spending some sleepless nights catching up on Season 2 DVDs of LOST that I just borrowed!

Saturday, November 04, 2006

A day in Kichijoji

November 3rd is a national holiday, "Culture Day", in Japan. But Hubbo had to go to work, so my Little Man and I went on a date to a park in Kichijoji.
He played at the playground,
went to the small zoo section and checked out an elephant, lots of monkeys, deer, ducks, squirrels, racoons, goats, fox, and some other not-so-exciting animals, and nervously held a marmot in his lap.

After a 100 yen ride on the bullet train and some other rides in the amusement section of the park, I was able to negotiate an hour of real "culture" time inside the sculpture museum. They had a special free concert since it was Culture Day! You can't see her face in this picture, but the harpist came all the way from Belgium! They played 10 pieces, varying from classical music to songs from the Ghibli film, Tonari no Totoro, and ended with the Japanese folk classic Akatombo. We listen to music all the time at home, but it was so nice to listen to live, acoustic, professional music! I try to expose Cutie to such events as often as I can, but after about 30 minutes, he was bored and wanted to leave so he could steer the cycle boat. His legs were way too short to reach the pedals, so I was the only one who got a good 30 minute workout for 600 yen. After a late lunch and ice cream, we went someplace for me: Sheep Meadow has beautiful hand dyed yarns. They don't have a lot of bulky yarn; most of it is pretty fine, and they are all quite pricey, which means the total price ends up to be a lot. But the colors are so beautiful! At this point, Cutie was pretty tired and I couldn't spend time ooh-ing and aah-ing and mentally drooling over these yarns, so I just asked them for 2 more balls of a cotton yarn that I had run out of, and took some pictures and went on to Avril. Avril and Sheep Meadow are about only 3 blocks apart from each other. Avril is where I made a felted iPod shuffle case with my knitting buddy S back in May. I found these variegated 50% wool, 50% silk blends that I thought might be good for Clapotis, that I would like to knit someday. I'm very proud of myself for not having bought anything at either Sheep Meadow or Avril! Must finish up current projects first!