Danish cookies

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I think I have a weakness for cookie tins. I don’t intend to collect them, but whenever I see a cute one, i am tempted to buy it. Not for the cookies inside really, but to keep the tin.

I saw these tins at 99p shop yesterday. They are sold for 99p each. How come they are so cheap? How much are these cookies inside? It is a bit scary.

I have been knitting people with traditional costumes of the world recently and I just needed to get these tins. They come in three different designs. Besides, my boys are biscuits lovers, of course.

Whenever I see a tin of Danish cookies, I think of my dad.
Many years ago, my father attended a high school which specialize in fisheries. As a school training program, he had to go on a boat for a month and get a job experience with fishermen. His mum (my grandma) gave him a large tin of Danish cookies before he got on the boat. My dad hid it under his bed and ate one biscuit a night secretly.

It was more than 50 years ago. I don’t know how my grandma managed to get it, but it must have been quite dear.Japan was recovering from the huge damage caused by the Second World War and, the entire country was going through the extreme poverty. Ingredients like butter, eggs and milk must have been out of reach for most people.

My dad still loves butter cookies. Although he had very little when he was young, I think he has lived richer life than us in a way. We don’t get to experience what he did any more. We have plenty of food in shops and, we cannot much appreciate biscuits sold for 99p. Everything is cheap and, everything is disposable.

However, my son is going to Africa for a month next summer to work with the local people, helping schools and children. No phone, no internet. I would hear from the British Embassy only if he got in a serious trouble. He will gain precious experiences there. And I will get to find out how it feels like to send your teenage son away for a month without any contact from him.

Maybe I should send him away with a tin of biscuits.

The tins had three designs: London, Paris and what seemed like Amsterdam. I have never seen a French man in a stripy shirt with a baguette, but here he is.
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And I made a man with a beer mug with the German traditional outfit.

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And you may have seen him, the Pizza man for Italy.

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Summery salmon

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In one of the recent episode of the “Celebrity master chef”, the contestants were making fish and chips. One of the celebrities chose salmon to cook, but it wasn’t very well received by the judges. Slightly oily salmon is not suitable for deep frying, they said. Salmon is often poached or grilled, but in our country, it is not out of custom to fry salmon.

My sons like salmon fried with bread crumbs, but in summer, I make this dish called “Nanban-zuke” more often.
Nanban-zuke (literally “southern barbarian pickle”, why? I don’t know) is a Japanese fish dish resembling escabeche. To prepare it, the fish (often salmon, Japanese jack mackerel or Wakasagi smelt) is first fried, then marinated. Since the fish is marinated in vinegar with other ingredients, the fish doesn’t taste oily.

Marinade goes well with BBQ. You can prepare it way in advance and is very handy when you have guests.
I add a bit of dried chili, but you can do without it of course.

Ingredients to serve 4

4 pieces salmon fillet (500g)
salt and pepper to taste
3bsp all purpose flour 
oil for frying
vegetables of your choice (bell pepper, shiitake mushrooms, celery, etc)

marinade
200cc water
150cc rice wine vinegar
3-4tbsp sugar
3tbsp soy sauce
pinch salt
1-2dried chili, sliced

1. In a shallow container, mix all the ingredients for marinade.
2. Cut the salmon fillet to about 4cm squares and season.Coat with flour.
3. Heat the oil to 180℃ (370F)
4. Fry salmon and vegetables(no need to coat them with flour) of your choice. Drain excess oil and marinate them while still warm.

It is ready to eat after 30 mins, but you can keep it in the fridge for the next day.

I wrote this recipe for the newsletter for Clearspring, organic Japanese food supplier, a few years ago. I found my photo in someone else’s blog the other day. It had a different recipe which did not match the photo, but I recognized my serving plate. It is kind of flattering.

We are experiencing the heat wave last few days and it is so hot.

Heading down to the beach?

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Knitted Space Shuttle

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This is another project I always wanted to try: the Space Shuttle.

The Space Shuttle, what a nice name. Whoever named it is very clever.

When I start a new project, I always Google research the images. I know it is a bit lazy but, we don’t go to a library anymore these days. You get to see many photos and they are up to date.

I realized I knew nothing about the Shuttle. Last time when I knitted an airplane, I managed to sew the wings wrong way around. You may think it isn’t possible, but I did. Silly. It end up looking like a flying bird. The images in your head are very unreliable.

I wanted to do this project because, I wanted to create quirky looking astronauts. I was more interested in astronauts than the Shuttle itself, I must say.
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And the American flag. I had to have the American flag, but this turned out to be rather difficult. Actually, the flag was the hardest of all. I had three trials to make it look all right.
I used 4-ply yarn so that the flag would have enough colours. I also wanted to avoid making it too big or heavy. But it had many yarn ends to treat at the end which were a bit annoying.

I wonder if I would go on a space holiday if I was given an opportunity. Maybe not. I prefer to have 100 balls of yarn instead and knit astronauts at home.

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A sign of good luck

Here are some green tea bags in cute triangle boxes my mother sent me. Each contains different blend of green tea and the name is written on the box. I don’t know much about green teas, but these seem to be of very good quality.
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Have you seen a tea stalk floating vertically in your teacup when you have Japanese green tea? When you see it, you will have a good day. Because it is believed to be a lucky sign.
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A tea stalk floating vertically is called chabashira (lit: tea pillar). Seeing a chabashira, we feel happy.

It rarely happens. I had a chabashira once or twice in my entire life so far.

The origin of the expression is unknown. You feel lucky because it is so rear? May be. But the thing is, to have a chabashira, the tea has to be relatively inexpensive, second-rate in quality. Very good green teas are more well refined and do not contain tea stalks. You need to use loose tea leaves with coarse strainer. I have a feeling people started call chabashira a good luck to enjoy cheap and affordable teas in old times.

It is certainly entertaining.

Whatever the reasons, when you find a chabashira, be happy!
You are not supposed to tell anyone or show it to anyone. You need to keep it quiet and just swallow it, otherwise, the luck will escape.

In the first home economics class in year 5, we learned how to boil water, believe or not, and serve green tea properly.
We were allowed to bring some Japanese sweet cakes, buns or rice crackers to serve with it. I remember being so excited about the lesson that day. It is still taught in Japanese elementary school, the tea serving.
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I don’t drink green tea much these days, but I am going to enjoy some with cute rice crackers today.
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Simple, healthy and fun.

Knitted bird house

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When you add a new listing on Etsy or Ravelry, you are asked to categorize your item. Quite often I wonder how I do this, because I don’t know which category I should choose. What are my knitted items?

I guess I enjoy the making process so much and forget to plan what to do with them afterwards. My granddad used to tease me, saying I waste my time making the most useless things. He may be right, but I think this wasted time may be more important than the time you spend doing your chores. You never know, Granddad. Creating something makes me happy and that is all what matters to me anyway.

My granddad passed away long time ago, but I can almost hear him. He would say the same thing if he saw this bird house, not in a bad way but with a big smile on his face. He was a kind, sweet and generous man.

It doesn’t have much use besides a room decorations and it sits in my room. I have tiny colourful birds as residents.

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I used a cereal box inside. I wasn’t too sure if I could make the hole neatly, but I managed with crochet edge.
I designed it as I proceed and, I realized that I should have crocheted the edge before I made it all up and attach the knitted piece on the box! It was rather fiddly and difficult, but I know I could do it better next time.

The weather has been dull and chilly, but my colourful birds are cheering me up.

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See, it is very useful.

My knitted elephant

I don’t make large toys very often, but I made this elephant last week.
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Because I never have patterns to follow when I make toys, it is a little risky to make a large toy. I want to avoid disappointment after spending many hours on a new project of course.

But I really needed to make this elephant to go with the scene I was working on. And my elephant needed to be big. I also wanted it to be cute and have a bit of character. I made the body rather short and made him sit down.
I had an idea of how many stitches to cast on to start, but I was a little nervous when I was sewing it up.

I wonder if you can guess what the story he is in.
The story has an elephant, a python, and these as well.
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I haven’t made a black leopard yet. I found some big cats are difficult to make, and I feel I need a bit more planning.

There he is, my main character.
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What do you think?
Figures without shoes is a bit challenging, but I think he looks fine.
I like this story and, I enjoyed making many animal characters.
(The boy is about 8cm tall)

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Tanabata Day

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Today is the Tanabata, (meaning “Evening of the seventh”). It is a Japanese star festival, originating from the Chinese festival. It celebrates the meeting of the deities Orihime and Hikoboshi, represented by the stars Vega and Altair respectively. Orihime is the princess, daughter of the Tentei meaning sky King, or the universe itself, and Hikoboshi is her love.

Orihime (meaning weaving princess) wove beautiful cloth for his father, and she worked very hard every day. But Orihime was lonely. Because of her hard work, she could never meet and fall in love with anyone. Concerned about his daughter, Tentei arranged for her to meet Hikoboshi who lived and worked on the other side of the Milky way. When the two met, they fell instantly in love with each other. They were so in love and, the two started neglecting their duties. Orihime no longer would weave cloth for Tentei and Hikoboshi allowed his cows to stray all over Heaven. In anger, Tentei separated the two lovers across the Milky way and forbade them to meet. He allowed them to meet only once a year on the 7th of July, which is today.
It is too harsh, I think. It is terrible to have the King of the universe as your Dad.

Before Tanabata, we write our wishes on strips of origami paper and hang them from bamboo branches along with other decorations.
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You can read other people’s wishes and, sometimes, you find funny ones.

We also have festivals mainly along shopping malls and streets, which are decorated with large, colorful streamers. Some decorations are huge.

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I used to love these festivals as a child. My parents used to take us in the evening, all dressed in summer kimono. There were many food stalls and toy shops. We also enjoy fireworks.

Happy Tanabata Day!
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(I made these with my son when he was young. We just pasted paper on wooden figures you can buy at craft shops. It worked.)