Heading Out For an Adventure

Starting an adventure tomorrow that will last the next three weeks. I’m keeping the location a surprise until I arrive.

I’m aiming for daily updates.

The owl will not be joining me on the trip but I find his stare really motivating. When I get tired I will always imagine this face encouraging me to get moving… or else!

20 000 Steps in San Francisco

NOTE: I found this draft from 2015. I did quite a lot of traveling that year but not so much writing about it.

Twenty Thousand Steps in San Francisco

It was supposed to be a relatively easy day. Take the BART from my aunt’s house in Sunnyvale, and hang out with my dad in San Francisco while I do some research for a book I’m working on set just before the 1906 earthquake.

The day started with a walking tour with City Guides and then it was supposed to be research at the San Francisco Public Library’s History Center.

And yeah, those things happened. But then little things kept getting added on. I found out about Argonaut Books. I absolutely had to go to Borderland Books. On the map, it all looks fairly close. Unless you keep making the wrong turns and add extra blocks and hills.

The tour I took was about the history of San Francisco’s private clubs such as the Olympic Club and the Bohemian Club. I practically had to run up Mason Street to get to the corner of Mason and California on time for the tour. I thought I was going to die by the last two blocks at the top. I barely had breath to ask if I was at the right place.

The tour was pretty good, but I wanted more information about the kind of people who went to these clubs, news, scandal and gossip that surrounded these places. I got some of that flavor with stories about Ambrose Bierce getting kicked out of the Bohemian club and helping to found the Family Club.
Mostly I soaked up the flavor of the area and photographed fire escapes.

The History Center found at the Public Library was great. The people at the Main Branch of the Public Library were awesome and very helpful. I got lots of suggestions for researching my fiction book to be set in San Francisco pre-1906 earthquake.

Borderland Books was pretty much as great as I thought it would be. Friendly staff and some great recommends. I’m really going to try to attend the Literary Crawl next weekend.


  
  
We decided it would be quicker to walk back to the Caltran station than take a bus or grab a taxi. The night scenes in the Mission district were intriguing. I was imagining going back to 22nd St Station but my dad wanted to go back to San Francisco station. That was a much longer walk than anticipated. But it ended up being the right thing to do since it meant we got seats on the next train.


  



  
  

Onishi summer matsuri

Over the last couple years since I did a short artist residency in Onishi in Gunma Prefecture, I’ve been lucky enough to attend the summer matsuri. This is a super short post since I’ve written about it before, but I found these pictures from 2015 the other day and it brought back great memories of hot summers, community solidarity and friendliness. I hope I can take more pictures this summer.

 

Thanks ONISHI!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ebijiro, The Traveling Shrimp Sushi: A Photo Project

Ever wonder what an ebi (shrimp) sushi would do if it had the opportunity to travel a bit? Wonder no more! Ebijiro is here to demonstrate. On a brief trip to Belgium and Amsterdam I photographed this sushi in different locations. A friend described this photo project as “somewhere between hilarious and freakingly odd.” I was elated because, yep, that’s pretty much the tone I strive for. You can see the original posts at my instagram or searching for #ebijiro or #shrimpstagram.

Of course, it’s not a real shrimp. That would be smelly. It’s one of those extremely realistic plastic food models for which Japan is famous.

I love this intersection between travel and toy photography. From the moment I saw the Travelocity gnome photos and the gnome postcards from the movie, Amelie, I felt this… freakingly odd connection. I actually started doing this kind of photography a few years ago with a clay star I call Estello. I got a few strange looks (okay, many strange looks) but I also met a lot of other people doing the same thing. The different objects people choose for their avatar reveals a lot about the person. Mostly people use stuffed animals.

I’ve been doing Estello for a while. He even has his own blog, Estello Project (though it’s in desperate need of an update). I love how the moldable oil-clay can interact with the environment, but that movement comes with a price. It’s very messy. Dirt gets in the clay, clay gest on fingers, sets and cameras. So Estello is currently in a period of development as I search for a material that isn’t so difficult to work with.  On this trip I was a bit disappointed that I’d be doing only “regular photography” until I saw this shrimp sushi at the airport and thought, why not?

What I enjoy beside the humor of photographing a shrimp all over Europe, is the challenge of finding new ways to look at places. I’m thinking about light and perspective in a new way. Ebijiro, and this photography give me a different way to engage with the places I travel. It’s another tool in my photographic thinking kit.

Go For the Knowledge, Leave with Inspiration—Learn about Travel Writing with La Carmina and Odigo

If you think that spending your Saturday in a day-long travel writing workshop sounds exhausting, then you didn’t make it La Carmina and Odigo’s writing workshop held at Ryozan Park Otsuka. I learn a lot and I left more energized and inspired than I’ve felt all week. La Carmina is a tv presenter, blogger/video blogger who covers counter-culture all over the world and has a huge following. Odigo is a new travel app/service designed to help visitors access locals’ insider knowledge in order to enjoy a more authentic travel experience in Japan.

Eric Bergemann, La Carmina, Melissa Rundle at workshop with Odigo
La Carmina (middle) with team members Eric Bergemann and Melissa Rundle

In the morning, Marla Hall presented a basic workshop on travel writing. We covered different types of travel writing and had a chance to start or continue an article and do peer critiques. Marla’s presentation helped me refine the angle I will take for writing more about my recent Zao trip.

In the afternoon, La Carmina, and her team members, Melissa Rundle and Eric Bergemann generously shared their expertise on what makes a successful travel blog and how to make a living from travel writing. They were friendly, extremely organized, and direct about their experiences.

I’ve been to a lot of different classes and this was the best presentation I’ve attended about blogging and social media. Using examples from her blog, La Carmina talked about the importance of creating a great experience for readers and how to maximize your blog’s effectiveness.

Eric and Melissa are screenwriters and film-makers and had lots of tips for making effective videos. They talked about the types of gear they use and what they do with it. Melissa an Eric also gave practical tips for editing segments to create a professional video. I haven’t really done much video, but after listening to Melissa and Eric, I’m keen to start experimenting.

My favorite tips include naming your media files with key words and hyphens to increase SEO and always filling in alt tags for images. It’s an easy thing to do but it’s an easy thing to overlook. I hadn’t realized how much difference it would make. I usually name my files in an unintentionally cryptic way that works for my projects but aren’t helpful search terms. I am changing how I do that today.

La Carmina emphasized that it is a process and that it takes work and that generating a successful blog doesn’t happen over night. When they finished their presentation I had renewed respect for how much work it all takes, but I also left with the feeling that I had been shown some good steps that I could use to grow. From talking with other participants, I know they also feel the same way.

Melissa Rundle, La Carmina, Ryozan Park Otsuka, Odigo
After the workshop with Odigo.

Community Manager Lauren Shannon gave an overview of Odigo’s purpose and goals then led a roundtable discussion about writing and blogging goals in general. I’m pretty excited about the concept of an app based on local knowledge helping people get to know Japan. I’ve been here a long time and there is a lot to see and do beyond Tokyo Tower and Kaminari Mon in Asakusa.

We finished the day over snacks and conversation with La Carmina, Melissa, Eric, Lauren, Marla and other participants. It’s always good to meet people who share similar interests. When you get a chance to learn from friendly people who are doing so well it’s even better!

Thanks La Carmina, Melissa, Eric and Odigo for the great opportunity.

Mission Yarnpossible: Calgary

Since my European Yarnpossible missions, the wristwarmers,  and Argie I hadn’t made anything for months. From late March, I’d been working on a writing project and a photography project which took up all my time. In May I went to the Romantic Times Book Lovers’ Conference in New Orleans and visited my family in Canada. It was lots of work and lots of fun. But I was going into maker withdrawal. Making something from yarn is like a kind of meditation for me with the bonus that I have some product to show for my time. Still, I don’t live in Calgary anymore so I don’t know any knitting stores there.

My mom gave me five balls of Sirdar Denim Tweed DK that she found during a cleaning binge. I thought, “Hey great! Free yarn.” But then the yarn sat there, and it just begged to be made into something. But I don’t have a crochet hook. Then I think, “Hey! I could maybe buy some Noro books in English.” Remember that Phildar pattern I liked? Noro Love has a pattern called Aimee that is similar. I know you can order books online, but I’ve been burned too many times before on craft, crochet and knitting books. Just because the picture is great, doesn’t mean that the book is going to work for YOU. I need to hold that book in my hands and check all the patterns and the instructions before I spend my money.

Gina Brown’s
Happily, Gina Brown’s has a great Noro selection and a great selection of Noro pattern books. I also wanted to consult someone because I’d need to adapt it to make it longer and I need advice on the wool. The pattern calls for Kochoran, a wool that Noro discontinued. There is no substitute for talking to experienced staff at a knitting store when it comes to swapping out wool.

diamond_woolI promptly got the Noro Love book and then talked yarn with the staff. She recommended I try Malabrigo Chunky or Diamond alpaca wool.

I loved the feel and colors of Diamond alpaca. I wasn’t sure about my tension, so I bought a ball to try it out. I knew right away I wasn’t going to be my sweater. It was soft, colorful, quick to knit but I forgot how much alpaca sheds. I gave up on the swatch but decided to use up the yarn by making a pair of slippers which would be far from my face in daily life. I took a look at some slipper patterns then decided to try my hand at making my own pattern. Luckily I used just under one ball, plus a contrasting trim to make up the slippers. It took about two days to make them, including start, restarts and shopping. Everything was great but the shedding! I was covered in blue hair. It looked like I was owned by a big blue dog.


Super warm, felted slippers from Estonia
Even super warm, felted slippers from Estonia are no match for chilly ceramic tiles

The idea to make slippers was no doubt was inspired by the glacial temperatures of the ceramic tiles on my parents’ floor. Even my super slippers Ratti and Ratto couldn’t protect me from chills. It turns out that my new alpaca slippers make great inserts for Ratti and Ratto. The extra layer of alpaca is like a massage for my feet.

While shopping at Gina Browns’ I nabbed a fun book, Monkey Around by Patons for knitting or crocheting various kinds of sock monkey toys and accessories. I promptly bought more wool to complement the my recently acquired denim tweed to make a sock monkey cosy. I post about the sock monkey cup holders in next week’s Yarn Addiction Thursday.

Gina Brown’s has lots of lovely fibers in some of my favorite brands, Malabrigo, Noro and Cascade. The staff was lovely and I got lots of great advice. They also showed me a pair of magical knitting needles. Check them out in an upcoming Yarn Addiction Thursday post.

5718 1A Street SW
Calgary, AB T2H 0E8
Phone number
(403) 255-2200
http://ginabrownsnews.blogspot.jp/

Pudding Yarn
I just happened on Pudding Yarn when I took my mom out for lunch on 17th Avenue. We parked the car and right outside was a yarn store I’d never heard of. It’s been there for a while, but I no longer live in Calgary I’m out of touch with shops. It was also perfect timing because I had just decided that the lime green cascade yarn I had for the sock monkey cup was a great contrast color for the slippers but the size just looked too awkward. My attempt at amore delicate edging failed miserably. The woman who worked at Pudding Yarn was helpful and the store has a lot of nice, luxurious yarns. I was able to get a really nice yarn (Phildar, coincidentally) in a lovely deep magenta to trim the slippers.

1516 6 St SW, Calgary AB T2R 0Z8
(403) 244-2996
http://www.puddingyarn.com

It’s interesting how my memory of yarn shops in Calgary has changed, or perhaps knitting in Canada has changed. When I was just starting to knit in high school, most of the patterns were Patons or Beehive with the occassional exotic French patterns. The yarn was ok, but not particularly amazing compared to the wonderful array of colors, textures and materials available today.

Mission Inspiration: Paris

Rather than heaps of text, I thought I’d just post the photos of Paris that I took and still look at for inspiration. There are color swatches from some of the photos. Hope you like the photos.

Two different approaches to photographing the Eiffel Tower.


Chocolate Shopping: only a fraction of the stores I went into!

The Seine and Pont Alexandre III

Twilight and Night

Color swatches inspired by Paris:

I have heaps of photos from different Museums which allowed photography but I’m saving those for me.

Mission Yarnpossible: Paris

I think this pattern must be vintage by now.
I think this pattern must be vintage by now.

I had two ideas about yarn in Paris before I started research: La Droguerie and Phildar. La Droguerie has become my go-to store in Tokyo for beautifully colored yarn, fibers and notions. Now I was going to get a chance to see where it started. Phildar is a French yarn company. I have a decades old pattern for Phildar yarn that I always liked but could never find the yarn. This trip might see that sweater become a reality.

There are quite a few blogs about knitting and crafting in Paris. My favorite was www.onemancrochet.blogspot.com. The blog is a fun read and has a great list of stores to check out. I was most keen on Lil Weasel and added it to my list.

The Search for Phildar:
It seems like this brand is less popular than it used to be and it was hard to find. I found some Phildar in a little corner in Printemps department store but didn’t find the yarn from the pattern. Not only that, the yarn section was kind of an afterthought of a corner and wasn’t really that interesting. I think I’m not going to pursue this sweater. I love the design but the pattern isn’t easy to read and finding a replacement yarn will be tough in Japan because of language. There are easier things to spend time on and now I can move on from that idea.

La Drougerie


Going to La Drougerie is like heaven for yarn lovers and jewelry makers. I often go to the one in Shibuya. So going to the one in Paris was a no brainer. All La Drougerie stores are beautiful, full of great notions, yarns and colors. Lots of great examples cover the walls. If you aren’t inspired to make something when you walk into a La Drougerie then I don’t know what to say.

Despite the awe of color and ideas, visiting the Paris store was a bit disappointing. I didn’t see anything I couldn’t get in Tokyo and it’s not easy to buy stuff at this location. There is a ticket system for customer service that was hard to figure out. Normally, I’m all for systems that keep things organized but when I asked tried to ask for help with my poor French, I got completely ignored. There’s no photography in the store but my husband took a few shots from the outside because after all the effort of getting there, he wasn’t leaving without any.
Address: 9 et 11 rue du Jour, 75001 PARIS
Tél: 01 45 08 93 27/ Fax: 01 42 36 30 80
Heures d’ouverture:
Le lundi de 14h00 à 19h00
Du mardi au samedi de 10h00 à 19h00

passage_dugrandcerf
At the entrance of the Passage. Photo by H.O.

Lil Weasel
Onemancrochet had a great post about wool shops to check out in Paris. I only went to Lil Weasel and it was a highlight of my trip. The store is located in Passage de Grand Cerf which is in the 2nd Arrondisement, the Montorgueil quarter, with entrances on the Rue Saint-Denis and Place Goldoni. This arcade is filled with stores selling antiques, art and artisanal objects so Lil Weasel fits right in. Even my husband found shops to interest him.

Lil Weasel is everything you would want for buying yarn. Just looking in the window is a visual treat. Super friendly staff, who speak English, are willing to talk to you about what you want to do and to help you make it. They have a fabulous selection of materials and yarns. They organize the things by color instead of brand or size. I’ve never seen this organization but I love it. I asked if I could take pictures and the staff seem surprised by the request and encouraged me to take photos.


They helped me pick out some colors to make some granny squares. We agreed on the green being a more interesting contrast color than dark gray but now I’m chicken about the green.
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Address:1 Passage du Grand Cerf, 75002 Paris, France
Tél:+33 1 73 71 70 48
du Mardi au Samedi de 10h30 à 19h00

Things I made with yarn from Lil Weasel:
Valentine wrist warmers
Hello Kitty cup holder (debuting in a few weeks)

Mission Inspiration: Helsinki

City and Sea

Photos from walking around Helsinki in January. I convinced my husband to walk around Helsinki for hours by luring him with the promise of food at Hietalahti Market Hall. It was a loooong nice walk and the food was good.

I really enjoy scandinavian food. The bread is always good and hearty, there are lots of sandwiches with vegetables. I’m totally into sandwiches since I got back.

Shops

For some reason I didn’t take any pictures of the Marimekko shop. I love their prints but the clothes just don’t work for my body type. There are many Marimekko shops in Tokyo. I like the simple, minimalism design I saw. The clean lines make me feel really relaxed.

Some Helsinki winter color palettes:

Mission Yarnpossible: Helsinki

So the next Yarnpossible mission in my European adventure was to find some yarn in Helsinki. Thank heavens for ex-pat sites and blogs. If you are travelling to a foreign country, I really recommend checking out some ex-pat sites. Knitmap.com was a great help. I spent a lot of time looking at this world-wide knitting store database. When searching for stores I discovered Riihivilla.com. Riihivilla sells through an online shop  and at Kauppatori Market in Helsinki. It is a family business which produces and dye their own wool and make gorgeous kits. I didn’t go but it is definitely worth mentioning because this shop really represents Finnish yarn and knitting to me.


On January 2nd, I went to Lanka Deli by Novita.  I enjoyed the shop but the women who worked there were polite, they weren’t as chatty as staff at other stores I’ve been to or other Finnish people I met. I think there was a language barrier.

I found a felting wool which I later used to make my  felted iPhone case. The yarn is called Huopanen. It was interesting to work with a wool specifically for felting after knitting. It works up easily and I din’t have problems with splitting the yarn.

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I also bought some wool to make some mittens. Florica by Novita is a 5-ply sport weight. It seems similar to the craft-boutique wool I saw in Tallinn. It was a bit softer and I had a chance of ordering more if I liked it. My color choices were inspired by Marimekko designs and Italla tableware, and Dick Bruna’s Miffy. Bruna is one of my favorite illustrators.


Lanka Deli by Novita.
Malminrinne 1 B, Helsinki, Finland 00180 Finland
(09) 673 246

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