Monday, October 5, 2015

sneezing iguana

Last month I googled "how many times do I have to sneeze in a row before it kills me?" I'd been sneezing so much, I was starting to suspect I'd be dead by now if it weren't for my cardiac pacemaker. But I guess that isn't so.

I did learn that the longest human sneezing spree on record is 978 days, and that iguanas sneeze more often and more productively than any other animal.

So today I became inspired to paint  a sneezing iguana. (I know I know, it looks more like it's singing opera.) Yes, I am still sneezing. But not everyday, and not all day. Must be the change of seasons. Recently acquired allergies. Dry air. Or maybe I'm part iguana.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

carrots by any other name

I recently made a new friend by overcoming my natural desire to fade into the woodwork, and instead, reaching out to someone who looked like she felt even more out of place than I did.

Yesterday she brought over a huge pitcher full of freshly-made carrot juice, the tastiest carrot juice I have ever, ever had. I've always liked carrots, but I never loved carrots until yesterday. To celebrate this life event, I made some carrot etegami.

The card at the top says "Mr.Carrot, I had underestimated you." I'm sending this one to my new friend. I have no doubt that she will pick up on the double meaning-- a reference to my happy surprise in our new friendship.

The second card says: We are not of night nor of darkness; so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober. (I Thessalonians 5:6)

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

calling earth

I find that I need a break from the internet (specifically social networking sites) more and more often these days, and the string of September holidays called Silver Week has given me another excuse to go offline. People can still call or text me... unless I lose my stone-age cell phone of course. In which case there's always the good ol' postal service. I've said it many times, and I'll say it again: I sure do love the Japan Postal Service. Now that's a civilized way to stay in touch.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

a lesson from the seagulls

August was a month of large and small tribulations, and I'm not sad to see it end. The very least of these, and the only one that is slightly funny, inspired a short series of etegami at a time when my desire to paint had completely dried up.

I've been spending a lot of time at a small house on the northwestern coast of Hokkaido, where almost all the windows face the sea. I came back one day to find every one of them covered with excrement that could only have come from the droves of seagulls that glide past just inches from the house when the fishing boats are in our area.

I haven't recovered enough energy to do anything about the windows, but I sure am glad I recovered my urge to paint. Thank you, seagulls. You guys are okay.

Monday, August 3, 2015

save the date (2)

You may remember my post last fall about save the date cards --a concept that was new to me at the time. I had been asked to design a set of cards for a couple who were planning a vow-renewal ceremony (another concept that was new to me).

I knew they loved coffee, but hadn't realized the extent of that passion. As it turned out, they were rather keen for me to use a coffee theme in my design, and asked me to try to include the phrase "all you need is love & another cup of coffee."

It's been almost a year since I designed their cards. They were professionally printed and sent off a couple months ago,  and the event itself will soon take place. Now I can post the images without fear of ruining the surprise for those invited to the event. May they enjoy many, many more years of the love and commitment that led to this celebration, and I thank them for letting me play this small part in it.

Monday, July 27, 2015

2015 illustrated recipes: set 3 (pickled plums)

I'm happy to report that the third in my series of illustrated recipes for The Japan Times ST was published in the July 24th issue. The ingredient I chose to focus on for the summer set (four recipes from appetizer to dessert) was umeboshi (Japanese pickled plums).

Umeboshi comes in more forms than you might think.  First, and most typical, is the red, wrinkly, soft umeboshi that is so sour and salty it sets your teeth on edge. It is a great accompaniment to fish with strong flavors, such as the sanma (pacific saury) in my recipe for Pacific Saury with Shiso and Umeboshi.

Lately, though, some of these umeboshi are marketed as "marinated in honey," a treatment that takes the edge off the extreme tartness and makes them suited to dessert recipes like my Umeboshi Cheesecake.

Then there is the small, crunchy umeboshi (kari-kari ume) that comes in both green and red varieties. Green is the natural color of the unripe ume fruit, and red is the outcome of pickling the ume with purple shiso (perilla) leaves. The small crunchy umeboshi are great as a snack, or when you want that crunchy texture in a refreshing summer salad like my Naga-imo and Umeboshi Salad.

There is also the pureed umeboshi that comes in small squeezable tubes, and the crumbled, freeze-dried (from puree) version that comes in small plastic bags. Umeboshi is considered to have health benefits, but it is also high in salt content, so beware of eating too many at one time. FYI, ume are not really plums at all, but a type of apricot. You can learn more about umeboshi from this Wikipedia entry.