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Origami Christmas Trees 2012

Wishing all my (cyber) friends

a VERY MERRY X-MAS
&
WONDERFUL NEW YEAR!!!

I love reading challenges. Not that I need any, but I like how they tend to shuffle my reading pile. Still, after feeling overwhelmed in 2010 I decided to be very careful with challenges in 2011. So I accepted only five! #goodgrrl :)

What’s the status now that December is around the corner? Am I getting stressed like last year? Do I feel accomplished? Need to get my act together and READ?

Completed 2011 reading challenges

Before I go any further I humbly bow my head and confess that even though I’ve read all the books I commited to for the following three challenges, I reviewed hardly any. 2011 has not been a great year of blogging for me. But as we’re talking reading challenges, I’ll consider my missions accomplished!

HARUKI MURAKAMI READING CHALLENGE

Murakami Challenge 2011 cover button

For the Haruki Murakami Reading Challenge I chose level TORU (named after our dear friend from The Wind-up Bird Chronicle, the first Murakami novel I ever laid my hands on). That means reading 5 books by the master (here’s my admission post). So far I’ve read 6 (!) and I plan to read one more before the year has ended — ask Elsje if you don’t believe me. ;) If I live up to my promiss that collection of short stories will lift me to the level of Nakata (from Kafka on the Shore).

Books read:

Hear the Wind Sing
Pinball, 1973
Underground
1q84 Boek 1
1q84 Boek 2
1q84 Boek 3

And yes, the Dutch translation of 1Q84 was published in three seperate volumes, coming out in June 2010 and April 2011. Also, the title is deliberately written with a lower case ‘Q’ because it much resembles a ’9′. I like that and have no idea why it should be different in the Japanese original and English version. Us Dutchies are pedantic. ;)

Last week Elsje and I went to a lecture about Haruki Murakami by translator Luc Van Haute in Leiden’s Sieboldhuis. He explained to us how the often stated opinion that Murakami’s novels are not typically Japanese is just plain wrong. It was fun — I have a huge reading list of Japanese authors to follow up ;) — and we also got to see the Hello Kitty exhibition and meet ennazussuzanne and Seraphine, who surprised us with the gift of an origami bookmark! Aw, that’ll come to good use when reading… JLit!

JAPANESE LITERATURE CHALLENGE #5

Japanese Literature Challenge #5 logo

The fifth Japanese Literature Challenge only started in June and runs to February, but on October 1st I had already finished the 6 books I commited to. That day I turned over the last page of 1Q84 Book 3. As I still plan to read Sōseki’s Kokoro for the Japanese Literature Book Group (I’m late, I’m late, I’m late!), and Murakami’s The Elephant Vanishes together with Elsje, I’ll probably up my level by the end of January 2012.

Books read:

The Woman in the Dunes ~ Kobo Abe
Underground ~ Haruki Murakami
Thousand Cranes ~ Yasunari Kawabata
1q84 Boek 1 ~ Haruki Murakami
1q84 Boek 2 ~ Haruki Murakami
1q84 Boek 3 ~ Haruki Murakami

FOODIES READING CHALLENGE

Foodie's Reading Challenge 2011 button

In the Foodies reading Challenge I cowardly safely labeled myself a NIBBLER, going for 1 to 3 books (admission post). So far I’ve read 5, and –YAY– even reviewed two!

Books read:

World Food Café
La Dolce Vegan!
Bento Box in the Heartland
Verraad, verleiding en verzoening
Vegan Family Meals

I hope I can find the time and energy to write some more reviews!

Unfinished business

But I’m not there yet. With only five weeks to go I need to finish two more challenges… Will I be able to do it???

CHINESE LITERATURE CHALLENGE

Chinese Literature Challenge button

I was half a year late in joining the Chinese Literature Challenge and I full-heartedly use that as an excuse for why I haven’t reached my goal of 1 book yet. ;) Here’s what I plan to read. Cheer me on and maybe I’ll be able to cross of this challenge before the year has passed!

WHAT’S IN A NAME CHALLENGE #4

What's in a Name Challenge #4 button (2011)

The What’s in a name challenge is always one of my favourites. It’s a thrill to pick your next book just based on a random word in the title. Call me crazy. ;) Alas, this year I’m having trouble finishing: even though I read several more than one fitting titles for four of the six categories, two are still open!

Books read:

Categorie NUMBERS
Pinball, 1973 ~ Haruki Murakami
2666 ~ Roberto Bolaño
1q84 ~ Haruki Murakami

Categorie TRAVEL/MOVEMENT
Travels in the Scriptorium ~ Paul Auster
I’ll Steal You Away ~ Niccolò Ammaniti
Model Flying ~ Marcel Möring

Categorie EVIL
Poelie the Terrible ~ Frans Pointl
Crime School ~ Carol O’Connell

Categorie LIFE STAGE
Bento Box in the Heartland: My Japanese Girlhood in Whitebread America ~ Linda Furiya

Still hoping to get around to:

Categorie JEWEL/GEM
The Moonstone ~ Wilkie Collins

Categorie SIZE
Vernon God Little ~ DBC Pierre

BTW you can always follow my progress on the special Challenge page on Graasland!

What’s new for 2012?

2012 is more than a month away but I have already lined up some reading plans. Wanna know what they are?

WHAT’S IN A NAME CHALLENGE #5

What's in a name challenge #5 button

Of course I can’t resist participating in the new What’s in a name challenge. I must say that I never buy or borrow books specifically for this challenge — picking titles that are already on Mt TBR, or have been on my wishlist for quite some time, is part of the fun. So what are the categories for 2012 and which books fit the bill?

  • A book with a topographical feature (land formation) in the title
    Choosing from: Last Night in Twisted River, Sunset Park, Lunar Park, The Street of a Thousand Blossoms
  • A book with something you’d see in the sky in the title
    Choosing from: The Moonstone, Sunset Park, Lunar Park, A Ride in the Neon Sun, Noorderzon (sun), Dead Air, Star of the Sea
  • A book with a creepy crawly in the title
    Choosing from: Little Bee, Een tafel vol vlinders (‘A table loaded with butterflies‘)
  • A book with a type of house in the title
    Choosing from: The Graveyard Book, Black Box, Het huis op de plantage (‘House on the plantation‘)
  • A book with something you’d carry in your pocket, purse, or backpack in the title
    Choosing from: Dreaming Water, Water for ElephantsMet bonzend hart : brieven aan Hella S. Haasse (‘With a throbbing heart: letters to Hella S. Haasse‘) [open to suggestions]
  • A book with a something you’d find on a calendar in the title
    Choosing from: The Eigth Day, Silence in October, Nocturnes

Don’t you think I have a whole lot of books available just to pick from? :))

THE SAVAGE DETECTIVES GROUP READ

Let me state first that I haven’t commited to the following task yet. I’m only considering it! Caravana de Recuerdos hosts a Roberto Bolaño The Savage Detectives readalong in January. I have the book on my shelf — it was a recommendation by the great author Kazuo Ishiguro — and I guess now is as good as ever. Especially since I didn’t much appreciate Bolaño’s 2666, which I read together with Leeswammes & Co. earlier this year. I’d better say it’s now.. or never!

Are you making plans for 2012 yet?
Looking back on your accomplishments for 2011?
I’d love to know!

Sunday Salon logoThe Sunday Salon is a virtual gathering of booklovers on the web, blogging about bookish things of the past week, visiting each others weblogs, and oh — reading books of course ;)

Spring birthday gift with origami flowers

In april I wrote about getting reacquainted with origami. Remember I made some flowers to decorate a present?

Some of you asked how I did it and I decided to make a video… Let me tell you: that’s easier said than done! ;) But I’m going to present my 7-minute amateur film anyway, since this month’s mission for Hello Japan! is to create some origami. And who wouldn’t want to be eligible for that awesome prize consisting of kawaii origami paper and droll geisha bookmarks?

If you’re familiar with the art of paper folding, you may want to know that we’re starting of with a bird base (of which the well-known origami crane is created), folding it into a ‘small kite’.

And if you’re an origami newbie and I’m working too quick for you — or the video is too vague, knowing this will enable you to search for additonal instructibles on the web. ;) But try and watch this first!

I have also scanned the instructions I originally used myself. They’re in Dutch so I will redirect you to some English sources and roughly translate the part I couldn’t find online.

It’s best to choose some flamed origami paper for this flower.

  1. Start with a square base with the coloured side of your paper down.
  2. Continue to make a bird base.
  3. Follow the instructions accompanying the picture below.
Instructions for Origami flower
  • Hold your bird base in front of you with the open point downwards.
  • Fold the ‘wings’ down to make a small ‘kite’ shape.
  • Now unfold the whole figure!
  • Using the same creases, fold the coloured part inwards and flatten the paper. You’ll get a 33° pyramide shape; I guess you’ll really have to watch my video for this to understand.
  • Slightly open all four sides and curl the leaves outwards with a chopstick or pencil.
  • You’re done!

Have fun!

Hello Japan! is a monthly mini-challenge focusing on Japanese literature and culture. Each month there is a new task relating to some aspect of life in Japan.

Hello Japan! is a monthly mini-challenge focusing on Japanese literature and culture. Each month there is a new task relating to some aspect of life in Japan. This month’s mission is ‘Back to School‘: to learn something, anything, about Japan.

I’ve been getting reacquainted with origami. In my early teens it was one of my biggest hobbies that started when I discovered how to fold a butterfly on an Asian open air market. It was probably the first Japanese thing I really got into — not counting my father’s enthralling stories about his childhood in a World War 2 Japanese prison camp… :\

Somewhere along the line I lost interest in the art of paper folding, but I never stopped using my golden paper fir trees as Christmas decoration! Unfortunately I can’t show you ’cause they’re stowed away in the basement. You’ll have to wait till X-mas time! ;) Or ask Mr Gnoe whether it’s true.

Now that I’m having some kind of burnout, I’ve been looking for activities that are less intense than computer stuff, reading or watching movies. Enter: cooking, ‘gardening’ (on our small balcony), hiking & my old pastime origami. My brain is SO hazy I can’t remember a thing, not even how to fold the butterfly that I must have made a thousand times. So I started from scratch again by buying second hand copies of the instruction books I owned back in the days. Of course I had hung on to my multiple cute papers! :)

I’ve been learning how to do some of the old fav figures, but I had to learn something new for this month’s Hello Japan! challenge. Since I’ve also been looking into origata, the (related) art of gift wrapping, I here present the combined result: a spring birthday present with origami flowers I’ve never made before.

Spring birthday gift with origami flowers

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Edited to add: there’s a post up on Graasland explaining how to make these fancy origami flowers!
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As the gift is a book (Crossroads, by Niccolò Ammaniti), I also taught myself how to fold a crane bookmark. In Japan cranes are a symbol of longevity.

The mark is made of gold & blue paper: both colours symbolizing wealth. The feminine blue also represents self-cultivation, calmness and purity and pale blue is specific for April. The warm gold & cold blue tint are in harmony (yin & yang).

A present: novel & origami bookmark

But that’s not the only thing I’ve been learning this month… I also set my mind to learning how to count to ten in Japanese. I already knew how to get to eight, but now I’m trying to recognize the characters, know the digits out of order and to sum up to ten. And yes, I’ve got some proof! Listen to this. :)

1 t/m 4 in Japanese

I hope you’ve also contributed to April’s Hello Japan!? For each and every participant our host Tanabata is donating $6 (¥500) to either the Japanese Red Cross or — even more up my alley — Japan Earthquake Animal Rescue Support (JEARS)! No need to have your own blog, commenting on the challenge post is fine too.

I’ve already donated to JEARS but their work is so important that I hereby pledge to follow Nat’s example with the equivalent of €4,- per person. So please join us if you’ve got a chance!

Here’s why.

Flower Bento #89

After a completely bentoless week – and a whole week without reading a decent book for that matter – November was closed with bento #89: Mediterranean Flower Bento.

Top tier:
Sweet & spicy couscous salad with zucchini, carrot, red pepper and spring onion, caper flower with cranberry heart, tiny plum tomatoes and goat’s cheese stars.

Bottom tier:
Yellow fruits yogurt, endive and corn salad, plum tomato and Fair Trade Basil-Mango splash for dressing on the side.

Homegrown: red pepper.
CSA (& organic): endive, corn salad, carrot.
Organic: yogurt, couscous, spring onion, cranberry.

I know the furoshiki underneath has plaits but I haven’t figured out yet how to safely iron rayon… I’ve messed up a brand new furoshiki in the past, so I am reluctant to give it another try – especially with this one made by Ichiro Tsuruta. I think it’s absolutely gorgeous.

Although this bento doesn’t contain anything Japanese I am submitting this post to the November Hello Japan! mini challenge about food. The bento lunchbox is a Japanese concept and I am giving it a global twist. A bit like the Japanese did with yoshoku: making new Japanese dishes out of Western food.

But I am disappointed with what I have to offer :( I had lots of inspiration for this month’s mission, but I ran out of luck (& time)! To begin with, just before this mission came up I tried my hand at some tempting matcha muffins (made with powdered green tea). Of course I had to make the red bean paste filling myself as well, even though I had never even tasted the stuff before. Because I had some matcha powder and red beans waiting on the shelf, this recipe fitted my personal ‘hamster challenge‘ in which I need to clean out my kitchen cupboards and pantry. Well, that doesn’t really work when you also buy an emergency can of red bean paste, does it ;) But to make a long story short: these muffins were a complete #FAIL and I meant to write a post about the lessons learnt. But I didn’t get to it yet – too little time!

Finished dango on their bamboo skewersI wonder if I should refrain from baking things that I have never eaten before… For my first time ‘hanami’ (watching cherry blossoms here in The Netherlands) I made some dango. It looked good, but it was awful! Like eating a huge ball of bubble gum that you cannot swallow – now I remember why I could relate so much to the funny cat story eating mochi in I Am a Cat! I later learned there also exists sweetened rice flour, so maybe I got the wrong type. Rice flour is now one of those things-of-no-use in my cupboard that are part of my hamster challenge. Any suggestions?

Another plan for Hello Japan! was to finally get some of those recommended Japanese fishies with red bean paste filling from Charley Happy, the sushi stall on the Friday market. Normally I don’t get to visit the market because I am at work, but I took a day off and made sure I was in town for the goodies. What a horrible discovery that the shop wasn’t there! Another #FAIL. Was it because of the stormy weather? Is the Dutch-Japanese couple hibernating? I certainly hope the financial crisis didn’t get to them?!

At least one idea for the challenge was partly a succes: the book about Japanese food carving that I fancied arrived about 10 days ago. But I didn’t have time yet to try any of the tricks. Neither did I get to check out Hasekura, a Japanese restaurant in Utrecht that Maaike liked, nor the new sushibar in the Lange Koestraat. And I even didn’t get to make some origami sushi :( Well, you can do that yourself if you follow origamaster22‘s instructions for tuna nigiri, nigiri egg roll or prawn nigiri on YouTube. And if you’re not the paper art type, you could try making sushi from lego or clay.

So much to do, so little time.

The last of my new furoshikis arrived this weekend: a cool blue & white dragon-fly design. I think it fits summer as well as winter :) I couldn’t say it better than Rusillio who tweeted:

i like the natural theme of the pattern, delicate but lively

The orizuru (crane) was made by my mother-in-law; I haven’t done any origami myself in a long, LONG time ;) But that might change in the near future when I’ll try this edible origami crane! Great bento dish :) But I guess I’ll need to practise first! ;)

Iedereen kent natuurlijk origami, de Japanse kunst van het papiervouwen waarbij zonder knippen of plakken geweldige creaties worden gemaakt. Maar daar wil ik het nu niet met jullie over hebben ;) Nee, deze post gaat over het vouwen van de was — en dan met name T-shirts. De gemiddelde Japanner doet namelijk 2 seconden over een shirt en dat is sneller dan westerlingen. Tja, ze moeten natuurlijk tijdwinst boeken voor het maken van charaben bento voor het hele gezin: arty lunchpakketten die door de aandacht die eraan is besteed liefde uitdrukken. Er is zelfs een naam voor shortcuts die het alledaagse leven eenvoudig versnellen: uruwaza. Japan fascineert me :)

Afijn, het vouwen lijkt heel simpel en je doet het zó na, maar als ik het de volgende dag opnieuw probeer dan ben ik opeens de kluts kwijt. Ik mis zeker een gen ;) Omdat jullie vast geen Japans spreken, heb ik een Engelstalige instructievideo opgezocht. Have fun en geniet van de extra tijd die het je oplevert! :)

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