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.



Lomo Purple and 500 yen Minolta in Amsterdam

Lomo Purple can be fun or it can be frustrating. I’ve been using it super lomo-style with a vintage Minolta I bought for 500 yen. It don’t come with a lens and I bought a 50mm to go with it for 10x that but c’est la vie. I meant to use the Minolta for pinhole work by adapting it with a lot of tape and a canon pinhole lens cap. I don’t always have the patience for pinhole and I love that 50mm lens.

Anyhow, the camera ended up on my Brussels-Amsterdam adventure where I mostly did Ebijiro The Traveling Sushi photos.

It was rainy and gray and a bit chilly in Amsterdam and I think Lomo Purple did a good job of getting that across. Below are some unedited photos I just scanned today (6 months later). I think I like this better than the Lomo redscale.

I think this one is my favorite.
l’m wondering if this is in tokyo

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.

Brussels and Old Negatives

This week I’m lucky enough to travel in Belgium. I’ve enjoyed Brussels and a quick day trip to Bruges. I took a lot of photos. When I shoot, I shop less and I hope my photos don’t suck. But my Brussels souvenir (aside from copious amounts of chocolate) is an odd combo of shopping and photography. I bought negatives and slides at a flea market at Place du Jeu de Balle.

assortment of negatives and slides.
Flea Market souvenir from Brussels. I really like the retro style of the negatives envelopes.

It’s a little bit strange to be in possession of these photos. It’s a very intimate glimpse into the life of the photo subjects and the photographer and now that I have the negs I can pretty much do whatever I want with them. That makes me feel like I have some kind of responsibility to these unknown people. But at the same time, it’s an art resource that was pretty much thrown away.

I have no idea how these images came to be at the flea market. Maybe someone did a massive purge, maybe a storage locker fee wasn’t paid and the contents went for auction. Perhaps someone went into elderly care and their house contents had to be dealt with in a hurry. I will probably never know.

The first batch of photos is black and white 6×9 negatives from the 50’s maybe. I can’t quite be sure of the era. I played around with photographing some of the negs with my iPhone and then editing them with Photoshop Express. The photos have some environmental background since I didn’t use a light table.

The slides, it turns out, were mostly shot in Algeria, assuming the text on the box is accurate. They look like photos from the late 70’s or 80’s. They are a bit harder to deal with by only using the iPhone. I’m going to try scanning them when I get back home. Here are some iPhone attempts.

What will I do with these photos?
I’m working on a project that uses old Japanese women’s magazines for characters to use in a diorama or a collage. I think some of these photos characters might make an appearance. Maybe I will incorporate them into some type of photo collage.
These photos do make me think about what I want to have happen with my photos in the future. Probably nothing. They will likely be buried in the millions of photos we take every day.

#valleyoffire playing with some photos from my trip to #nevada at the beginning of January. #spendypencilpost

via Instagram http://ift.tt/1yffmTl

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

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.
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.


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 Inspire: Tallinn, Land of Marzipan and Gingerbread

When you decide to go someplace on the spur of the moment, the anticipation is all about discovery rather than expectations. We decided to go to Tallinn on January 1st because almost everything in Helsinki was closed. We had no idea if Tallinn would have shops open or not, but we figured we could walk around in closed up Tallinn as easily as closed up Helsinki. Lots of stores were open in Old Town Tallinn, apart from my yarn mission, I fell in love with the marzipan and gingerbread I saw in the windows.

Marzipan figures for sale.Marzipan is made of crushed almonds and powdered sugar. It can be molded into like clay shapes that are painted with food dye, layered on top of a fruitcake like icing or used as a filling for a chocolate bonbon. There are many, many ways to use and consume marzipan. My favorite way to eat it is as a bonbon, but visually, the molded and painted marzipan is stunning and can look extremely realistic. As a sculptural material, marzipan has a slightly translucent quality.

Marzipan’s origins date to the middle ages, with two towns of descended from the Hanseatic League (doesn’t that name bring back memories of High School History?), Tallinn and Lübeck claiming to be it’s origin. Originally marzipan was produced as a medicine. Eventually production was taken over by sugar bakers and then chocolatiers. There’s lots of good information about marzipan on the kalev website.

kalev_2_wMaiasmokk (Sweet Tooth) is a café in Tallinn Old Town. According to the AS Kalev, the Estonian chocolate company which owns the café, Maiasmokk is “the oldest constantly operational café in Estonia.” It has been operating in the same location since 1864. They have been using the same marzipan molds since the 19th century, hand molded and hand-painted.

Kalev also has an impressive history. Established in 1806, it is the biggest and oldest sweets company in Estonia. The main market is Estonia but they also export to neighboring countries. While in Finland, I had many cups of espresso accompanied by a Kalev chocolate. I bought a lovely selection of individual chocolates and some marzipan chocolate bars for friends back home. I have to admit, it was a bit difficult to actually give them away. I wanted to keep them all for myself.

The café was really busy so if you are in a hurry, go around the corner and you get to the part of the shops selling. The shop connects to the café through a hallway. There may be a line for chocolate, but the staff is really efficient so you won’t have to wait too long. I meant to make more shops of the walls which had old tins and memorabilia but I was really focused on buying chocolate.

Maiasmokk (“Sweet Tooth”) Museum
Mon-Fri 8 am-9 pm
Sat 9 am-9 pm
Sun 9 am-8 pm
Mon-Sat 10 am-9 pm
Sun 10 am-8 pm
Pikk tn 16, Tallinn
Telephone +372 64 64 079

Marzipan Motivation Inspiration
Fine detail
Sense of translucence of the marzipan
Very retro-style, makes me think of old Valentine’s Day cards

gingerbread_4_wIn Estonia gingerbread is called piparkoogid. They are a bit on the thin side and decorated with icing. I saw lots of gingerbread window decoration, cookies, houses and biscuits of all sorts. This store completely enchanted me. I bought several cookies. They were fabulous, bit on the spicy side maybe heavier molasses taste than I have been used to.

Gingerbread Genius Inspiration
The snowflakes completely blew me away. The idea that you could hang gingerbread as a kind of mobile seems so out of the box.

I’ve seen gingerbread houses before, but the window display of the town underneath the snowflakes mobiles was so thoroughly thought-out.

The gingerbread scenes remind me that you can build and be creative with many types of materials.

I’ve come back with lots of inspiration for polymer clay designs and a desire to do some Estello or toy photography with a set I’ve created instead of on location.

Window Mania
I’m ending this post with a gallery of other interesting window displays I saw in Tallinn.

Mission Yarnpossible: Tallinn

Our trip to Tallinn was a complete surprise and totally unplanned. We read about the ferry from Helsinki to Tallinn in a brochure in our hotel room. The Old Town in Tallinn, Estonia is a UNESCO world heritage site for its architecture dating back to the 13th century. Since it was January 1st and almost everything in Helsinki was closed, we figured we might as well take the trip. It turns out that Old Town had lots of stores open and a Christmas Market in the Square. I was also keen to go because when I think of Estonia, I think of knitting

I made these 4 years ago and gave them to a friend.

I love multi-colored Estonian patterns. I’ve made a couple pairs of mittens using Scandanavian patterns. I discovered this through The Mitten Book: Traditional Patterns from Gotland, by Ingrid Gottfridson. My multi-colored knitting suffers from tension issues but I do it anyway. I’m sure there are differences in the colorwork knitting styles between Finland, Sweden and Estonia but I’m not clear what those might be. I was hopeful that I could find some yarn or some nice pieces to take home.

One of the first things I saw was a yarn-bombed bike in a window! Very encouraging! I love looking at yarn-bombed objects. How they do it is a mystery to me. One I intend to continue to enjoy as a mystery.

Yarn bomb that bike!
Yarn bomb that bike!

I found great looking at a couple of folk-art boutiques in Old Town. The yarn was really interesting but it was thin which means lots of work to knit; and coarse, which means really itchy-scratchy products. I can see how this wool would be great for blocking snow out, but I don’t like scratchy. But there are many wool-based souvenirs in Tallinn’s Old Town. My husband got a sweater, I bought a balaclava hat for a friend, and a pair felted mouse slippers for myself. The amount of felted work for sale was almost staggering.
Best Slippers Ever!

rattirattoI completely adore my mouse slippers. I call them Ratti and Ratto (sort of playing on the Finnish word for rat or mouse, even though they are Estonian). They were 20 euros which was on the cheap end for what was available. They have suede soles. The wool looks scratchy but the pink insides are very soft on the feet. The pink insides aren’t attached very well and one eye fell off on the first day. But they are still fun. I have plans to make Ratti a pi-rat by putting on a black eye patch in place of another eye.

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