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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.


ExtraVeganza logo, © variomatic

It’s late and I’m tired, so I’ll just post a quick note about today’s menu & experiences.

Day 3 Menu

Breakfast: fruit smoothie (banana, white grape juice, frozen forest fruit & soy yoghurt)
Lunch: Mr Gnoe & I shared the leftovers of Thursday’s Eat Good, Feel Good cooking class (YES! I really will still post about that ;) and had some more of that winter fruit salad as dessert
Dinner: rice with veggie stir-fry (soy beans, leek, cauliflower, carrot, Brussels sprouts, chestnut mushrooms, radishes, onion, garlic, ginger, mirin and the last bit of the spicy lemon-soy sauce), kale with leek & sesame, apple-bean sprout-alfafa salad, pecan & cashew nuts
Snacks: banana, vegan paradise cookie

ExtraVeganza! Lunch, Day 3

Any difficulties?

Yes. Tonight’s dinner did not follow any recipe and was supposed to include quorn, of which we were certain it was an all fungi meat-substitute… Until I checked the label and discovered it contains about 10% egg. :( We felt we missed something substantial in our dinner, so we added some pecans and cashews as a side dish, which was a good idea.

Tomorrow presents somewhat of a challenge since we will be having guests over to watch the final four episodes of 24 – Day 8. I will need to prepare dinner and snacks, do some housecleaning, blog and prepare a vegan bento for Monday. I hope I can manage all that!

Ha! I guess some of you thought I was going to update on my New Year’s resolutions for 2009? Nope! I never make any in January because I believe in starting any resolution the minute I thought of it — not on a set future date. So what is this post about?

It is looooong past my school days but I can feel the vibes of the new academic year starting all around me — getting me in a productive mood. There are some Big Issues I keep procrastinating and I hereby pledge to take care of one each month, starting September ;)

  1. Plan a holiday..! It may sound weird but Mr Gnoe and I are really not good at that :( We want to visit the Unesco World Heritage Site Cappadocia in Turkey again, in spring when the apricot trees are blooming. And before that we should take some more time off.
  2. Take some fire precautions, like buying a fire extinguisher and an escape ladder or something like it (right now there is only one way out of here and it’s on the kitchen side of our apartment…). Of course we already have a smoke detector ;)
  3. Swap internet provider (probably in combination with getting digital tv — yippee ;)
  4. Get those old Super 8 mm films digitized before they are beyond rescue!

4 months, 4 missions: it must be possible to accomplish these tasks before 2010, right? Or at least to take the first steps to get there. Because I have loads of reading challenges to finish as well! LOL

Are there any big projects you should / could pick up?

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! :)

Back to school ehm.. het museumEr staat weer een nieuw bericht in mijn Museumlog!

Today I decided to try WordPress for my lifelog instead of Livejournal. This free WP edition has more features and it is easier to use. Yes, I’m Dutch so I am cheap ;) But of course I will consider paying for additional options that I need.

  1. I want to find out if I can plan posts in advance.
  2. I have to figure out if there are Mac-clients that I can use instead of webbased blogging (preferably the same one for Mac as well as pc).
  3. Erm… I forgot ;) O yes, how uploading pictures works.

I haven’t been able to find the answers to these questions yet so if anyone can help out by replying I would be very grateful!

PS Please bear with me while I am tidying up my imported posts!

I was looking at some books read by someone I once knew — I like books so it interests me to know what people read — and was triggered by this title: Never eat alone. No, it is not about food :) It’s about how to get better at networking!

I checked out author Keith Ferrazzi’s site where you can read parts of the book and read his blog with tips. Before I new it I had done the one-click-buy thing at amazon… The shipping costs were a bit of a bummer but Ferrazzi’s techniques fit my taste and it seems like a very readable book. Let’s see if I can improve myself (and become less shy ;)

Ouch, almost a year has gone by since I posted in my journal! Time flies — and there’s too little of it anyway! But I’m still going to adopt a new hobby, taking up even more time ;)

cute sakura bento box

I have loved bento boxes from the minute I laid eyes on them (although I didn’t know what they were called for quite some time) and today I discovered that making bento lunches is an art of its own! Wow, I would really like to try my hand at that. Just a few buts

  • I don’t have a bento box yet; got to get one quickly! Until then ordinary Tupperware will have to do.

  • There are not a lot of vegetarian bento makers around so I have a hard time finding example recipes. Better be creative myself!

  • I do not have a lot of time in the mornings… So I’m glad to have come across Lunch in a box speed tips.

  • I would prefer to make real Japanese lunches but I can’t cook Japanese ;) Luckily my husband knows a little about that. But if I wanna use leftovers (etc.) I should not stick to Japanese food LOL.

  • I am trying to lose a little weight, not gain it! I’m not sure what’s gonna happen when I exchange my usual sandwiches for a real meal ;)

  • There’s no way I can reheat my food at work so I guess I can’t bring hot foods. Limiting my possibilities even more…

Well, I think I am just going to concentrate on getting nice small cold meals together and not try any of the arty crafts ;)

To be continued… I hope!

Mr Gnoe wearing xml socksYes! I have finally started upgrading my museum website to xml. It was made in old-fashioned html and it really should be brought up-to-date. Easier maintenance is just one of the advantages of xml. The main reason for taking on this project is that I need to learn xml and css for work and this is a good (and fun!) way to do it. Thankfully I’ve got a great and devoted tutor ;-)

First thing I’ve got to do now is switch editors. Morphon 3.1.4 is not just totally un-intuitive (there’s no paste-shortcut and the ‘OK’ and ‘ignore’ buttons have changed their usual places), it also does really WEIRD and SCARY things from time to time. And no, that is nót because of my stupidity ;-)

Well, I am not completely satisfied with the looks of my new journal yet, but it’s about time time I stopped playing and started writing!

This journal will be my life log. I already have a museum log. But although museums are a big part of my life, I really can’t write about them every day! That’s why I decided to create this journal.

Today we went to the Arena Mall. It was our second day of serious shopping for furniture and stuff and we reached ONE decision… Our diner table is going to be a Gispen (Dutch Design)! I have loved this office-like table for a long time now and all this shopping just confirmed my idea that there really are not much tables that are worth looking at – next to sitting at ;-)

Now we just have to decide whether it’s going to be The table, or a wooden one that is a little cheaper but -more importantly- looks well with wooden, much cheaper, chairs. With the other one we cannot refuse buying the standard Gispen chairs with corduroy seatings…

To be continued!

Gnoe goes ExtraVeganza!


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