Happy Thanksgiving

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Thanksgiving was one of my favorite celebration when I lived in America.
It is very American. I get images of football, family reunions, roasted turkey with stuffing, and pumpkin pie. It is so heart warming.

And I like the origin and the meaning of this holiday: Giving thanks for the Creator’s gifts.
I believe this comes from Native people of North America. They held ceremonies to give thanks for successful harvests, for the hope of a good growing season in next spring, and for other good fortune such as the birth of a child.
We celebrate harvest in Japan, too. We have festivals in autumn which are usually sponsored by a local shrine or a temple. Those are usually related to the rice harvest.

I also like the story of the first Thanksgiving in America in 1621.

In 1621, the Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians shared an autumn harvest feast that is acknowledged today as one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations in the colonies.

So, it is about accepting the people from different backgrounds and sharing the gifts from Mother Nature.

I have made Native Americans. I love the colour combination of their outfits and accessories.

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I have little girls. One of them can be a boy.
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And Teepies.

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It wasn’t too easy to place the patterns, but I think I managed it.

I got inspirations from looking at images of Native Americans. They are very talented artists.

Dream

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Congratulations to Lewis Hamilton, our F1 Grand Prix champion 2014.
Not only his amazing talent, it takes a strong determination and a dedication to win the championship.

My 15-year-old son has been kart racing since he was 6 years old just like Hamilton, so we know what involves in motor sports.

My son attended the karting school at Buckmore Park, Kent, acquired MSA (Motor Sports Association) driving licence and has been racing last 10 years.

This year, he got the international racing licence and raced outside the UK. He loves everything about motor sports and cars and has been very motivated to pursue this sport.

It sounds exciting and fun, but it is a dangerous sport. My son just had an terrible accident last weekend.
It has been a terrifying experience for him, and he suffered from the shock, both physically and psychologically. He suffered from a terrible headache and ran a temperature, shivering all over that night. He couldn’t eat for three days. He did not have a head injury, but the x-ray taken a couple of days later showed clearly that he has damaged his neck.

Why do boys like this racing stuff, I haven’t got a clue.

But motor sports have given him a focus and keep him out of trouble. He isn’t too keen on sitting in a classroom, but for his dream, he has decided to move on to six forms. His dream is of course to race, but he wants to study Motor Sports Engineering.

He made our garage into his workshop. This summer, he took all parts of my husband’s bike, repainted it and put it back together. He can also fix minor problems of my car.

My automobile engineers. Can you tell the make of the car?
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It isn’t always easy to sit back and watch your teenage son grow up without throwing in negative remarks, but it may be the most important task as a parent.

Chocolate cornets

In Japan, buns with sweet filling are popular and often eaten as a snack. I have shown you the recipes of an-pan (bread with sweetened red bean paste), cream pan (with custard cream filling) in the past.

I tried baking with chocolate cream filling, but my choco buns quite often ooze out the cream in the oven. I use very thick cream and pinch the edges very carefully to enclose the cream, but still the cream manages to escape from the dough, so I decided to change the strategy and decided to fill the cream after the baking.

These are buns called “Choco Cornets”, one of the popular sweet buns in Japan.
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Chocolate cornets are delicious chocolate custards filled bread cones. The dough is shaped wrapping the cornet mold and baked blind, and the cream is filled to the brim for a rich taste of chocolate to go along with every bite of the bread.

If you have your favorite bread dough recipe, you can use it. I use simple, basic bread dough recipe shown in the an-pan recipe. Since the bread will be filled with cream, the dough does not have to be rich.

You can buy tin cornet molds from a kitchen ware shop, but you can also make these easily with light weight cardboard and baking paper. I cut the cardboard to 15cm x 15cm or so, roll it and secure the edges with staplers. Then, wrap it with a sheet of baking parchment paper or a tin foil.
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You can find very well detailed recipes on internet if you search “choco cornet”. I do not go into detail here because a lot of people have done fantastic jobs explaining the steps. But here are my tips.

For the dough, after the first proof is done, cut the dough for each bun and roll it into a long oblong shape and give it about 10 to 15 minutes rest. I found this stage important.

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After the resting time, you roll it into a long, thin strips. If the dough tries to bounce back, it isn’t ready to be shaped, give a few more minutes to rest.

When you wrap the dough around the cornet mold, do not pull the dough, turn the cornet and gently place the dough around the mold.
And leave the dough for the second proofing for about 15 minutes. If the dough has gaps, do not worry because when it is baked, the dough will double the size.
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Brush the surface with egg glaze and now, ready to go into the oven.

Yes, done!
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Fill each bread with your favorite filling. You can fill it with chocolate or custard cream. I know some people like whipped cream.
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My older son prefers savory snacks, and he stuff the bun with a cooked weenie sausage with mustard and ketchup.

A baking idea for something a bit different, isn’t it?
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Knitted Harvest

I am celebrating autumn with this set.
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I saw a couple of little boys shopping for huge pumpkins with their Dad just before Halloween.
One pumpkin each.
Obviously, they were going to make lanterns out of them. They were very excited, but I wondered what would happen to the pumpkin flesh after carving. That is a lot of pumpkin for one family!

I like these orange pumpkins. They have the colour perfect for celebrating autumn harvest. We don’t get much of these in Japan, and the first time when I saw them in America, I was very impressed by the sheer size of them.

It is a bit of a shame that these pumpkins lose popularity the day after Halloween.

I knitted this harvest set for autumn nature table. I thought it would be nice to have it in the corner of my room.
I have large pumpkins and an apple basket in the farmer’s cart.
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This is something what I would love to do; riding in a cart like this.

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I ride squashed between all the Nature’s gift. I have a young ram on my rap to keep me warm.
Wouldn’t that be nice?
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Penguin campaign

My publisher is running a Penguin campaign, and I thought I should share the news with you.

Search Press Art and Craft Books

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Are you loving penguins at the moment like we are? Why not join in on our 12 days of Penguin fun with 12 days of FREE penguin projects!

On the first day of Penguin… we have this mini knitted penguin project from Mini Knitted Safari by Sachiyo Ishii.

FREE Download here: http://www.searchpress.com/project/2014/11/14/12-days-of-penguin-on-the-first-day-of-penguin #12daysofpenguin Knits by Sachi

Isn’t that nice?

Now, these penguins can be made into dangler charms like this.

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I have also added a hat for winter holidays.

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Here is the pattern for the hat.
Materials
small amounts of white boucle yarn or mohair, red DK (8-ply)
Equipment
A pair of 2.75mm knitting needles

With white boucle or mohair, cast on 10 sts. Break yarn. Join red DK and st/st 2 rows, starting with k row.
Next row: k1, (k2tog, k1) to end (7)
st/st 4 more rows.
Next row: (p2tog) three times, p1 (4)
Break yarn, draw through sts, pull tightly and fasten off.

Sew the seam, using the fasten-off end of yarn. With the seam facing back, attach the hat to the penguin, using the cast-on boucle yarn.

It works as a Christmas tree decoration, too. Enjoy.

Japanese cooking made very easy.

My little knitted chef.
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I cook Japanese everyday, well, almost every day. I do prepare Western style meals as pasta, pizza or our country’s favorite, baked potatoes, but most days, I cook Japanese.

When I tell that to my Briton friends, they seem to be very impressed. Maybe they are imagining sushi and tempura or these dainty dish with exotic ingredients you see on Master chef as Japanese cookery. But in fact, we have a variety of dish you can easily cook at home. Japanese food can be made easy and inexpensive.

All you need is the basic seasoning.

In Japanese cooking there are 5 basic seasonings ingredients which are essential in most Japanese cooking. They are: SATO (砂糖) Sugar, SHIO (塩) Salt, SU (酢) Vinegar, SEUYU (醤油) Soy Sauce, MISO (味噌) Miso. It is called Sa(さ) Shi(し) Su(す) Se(せ) So(そ) of seasoning, which is the “s” row of the phonetic alphabets (hiragana and katakana) in Japanese.

So, basically, if you season your food with some of these seasonings, you get Japanese food no matter what ingredients you use to cook. Simple.

I show you one of the easy and very well loved dish called Niku-jaga (meat and potato).

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It is a dish of meat, potatoes and onion stewed in sweetened soy sauce. Generally, potatoes make up the bulk of the dish, with meat mostly serving as a source of flavor.
Thinly sliced beef is the most common meat used, although minced/ground beef is also popular. Pork is often used instead of beef in eastern Japan.

It seems each family has their own version of Niku-jaga recipe. I use the stir-fry meat since you cannot get thinly sliced meat at supermarket in UK. If you are a vegetarian, you can omit the meat all together.
It is a very relaxed home cooking dish which doesn’t require accurate measuring or weighing, but here is the guidance. You can control the seasonings as you like.

3 medium sized potatoes, about 350 g cut into chunks
1 medium onion, thickly sliced
1/2 carrot cut into chunks
a few mangetout or green beans (optional)
150g meat
2 tbsp soy sauce
1tbsp rice wine if you have
2 tsp sugar
2tsp vegetable oil
a pinch or two salt to taste

Heat a pot over medium-high heat until hot. Add the oil, and fry onions until translucent. Add the meat and stir-fry until cooked through. Add the potatoes, carrots and continue stir-frying for about 3 minutes.
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Add sugar, soy sauce, rice wine and 2 tbsp of water and simmer, partially covered for 30 minutes, or until the meat is tender and the carrots and potatoes are cooked.
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This is a simple, one-pot-dish. I know some people cook with a lot of liquid, adding about 2/3 cup of water, but I grew up with this recipe and comfortable with this method. I like it less watery and prefer to steam ingredients rather than boil them. Add more water if you think you need to cook through the ingredients.
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Add the green beans and cook uncovered until they are cooked through.

I like adding a bit of ginger to it. I also add soft boiled egg at the end.

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We serve it with steamed rice. This dish is nice hot or cold.
When I am lucky to have a bit of left over the next day, I bake it in the oven or mash it all up and make it into croquettes.

See, it is so easy.

Fabulous Baker Family

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In primary school, I had a friend whose parents own a bakery.

It was a small shop in town and wasn’t anything fancy or posh, but well supported by the community.
She always smelled like baking; baked dough and sweet cream. She used to get teased a little by classmates because of the scent she carried, but I thought she smelled amazing and used to follow her everywhere.

I even followed her home one day, of course, with her invitation. Her house was joined to their little bakery and, she walked through the shop when she came home from school. She grabbed one or two sweetened buns on the way to her room for me. Her life seemed so much more luxurious than mine and I wished that my parents owned a bakery,too.

I have been knitting series of people at work and I thought bakers would be a cute addition.
I made two adult figures first. I am quite pleased with the way the buns came out.
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And then, I thought about this friend of mine. I decided to add a child.
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I made a boy instead of a girl. Because I wanted to add a hat, I kept the hair simple. A little boy baker would be cute, I thought.

What do you think?
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Wouldn’t it be nice if they bake you fresh bread every day?