Hand crafted souvenirs

Returned home from the adventure of a lifetime.
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My son came home from Africa safe and sound on Monday.

He was much cleaner and well fed than I had expected. The trip was absolutely amazing, he said. He looked truly content.

While I was rolling sushi for dinner, my son perched on a stool and told me a lot about the trip. Surely, he had a lot to tell.

He told me that he has been well during the trip. Most of the members suffered from diarrhea, but he has been lucky. He also enjoyed the food and happily ate whatever he was offered. He said their chapatis were very very good and absolutely loved them.

“Did you eat anything unusual?” I asked and he said “a boiled banana!” Umm, interesting.

He bought each of us something for souvenir.

For me, he got these wooden bowls. I am keeping bits and bobs of craft materials in these.
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Elephants and lions are carved on the side of the bowl.
and this;
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The Kilimanjaro coffee. It smells amazing and I am certainly keeping the cotton bag after use.

For my husband, he got this. It is hand carved stone rhino.
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And these are for his brother.
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A lion necklace and
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wooden lion with his name.

For himself, a lion’s tooth necklace and the Masai blanket. He bought both directly from the Masai tribe. He had a quick lesson on how to wear the blanket.
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These will make him strong.

He very much enjoyed every minute of the experience. Helping locals to build their school was fun and rewarding. Kenyan children kept calling my son “Jackie Chan”. They had never seen an Asian person before, but how flattering to be called that!

I hope he has shown some Karate moves. My son holds a black belt after all.

A shy and quiet teenage boy returned a confident young man. I am very pleased that we sent him to Africa.

And here is what we had for dinner. Quick sushi with the filling I can make with ingredients from local supermarket. I thought he had missed Japanese food.

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African Trip

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My son’s trip to Africa is almost over. He is returning tomorrow.

Time went very quickly? No. For me, it was the longest four weeks ever.

During this trip, we heard from the group only once. They have been travelling very remote area of Kenya with very limited internet service. They sent us a short message saying they were enjoying trekking with Masai tribe tour guides.

With these photos.

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How amazing to actually meet them.

The group is doing serious trekking. One full week trekking was scheduled. You would end up with lots of blisters!

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They are also involved in volunteer projects. One of them is to help the locals building a school.

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I have no doubt my son has gained precious experiences in last 4 weeks.

Now, I really cannot wait to see him. I have cleaned his room, stripped everything from his bed and washed all his linens. I was surprised to find myself enjoying these chores.

Cooking, cleaning, washing for the family isn’t always fun, and I do want to get a break from being a housewife sometimes. I secretly complain that my work isn’t appreciated or even noticed. But by getting ready his room, I realized how lucky I am to be able to care my family.

I cannot wait to hear all about the trip. Well, after his nice long shower.

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20 to make photo session

The photo shoot for my third book went very nice and smoothly.

This book contains 20 projects, which is less than my other books. I kept the patterns and assembly instructions simple since there is not enough space for step-by-step tutorials.

Although this is a mini A-5 book, my editor and the art designer had spent a lot of time on planning the shoot.
And we took a lot of care into the session.

As always, we started with the flat shots.

When we did the previous books, we struggle to photograph animals knitted in all white because for the flat shots, we need to have plain white background. Now, I know this and I try to use pale grey or off-white yarn when it is possible.

Another difficult colour to shoot is black. It often turns out brown or funny grey colour. We do need to correct a little digitally.

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Some of my animals do not want to stand on their own. In that case, my photographer has a great tip.

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A-ha! He uses a Bluetack and a cocktail stick. The stick will be hidden behind the item and will not show in the photo.

When our art designer comes down to the studio, the real fun starts. We take styled shots.

Many authors use very simple background without props, and I think that is one strategy, but I like my photos to tell stories.
My photographer and designer know this very well and they make so much effort to make things just right.

Here, he is trying to make my boy angel sit on a cloud.

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He also had a very cute and romantic setting for my little cats. The cats are supposed to be sitting on a brick wall. The moon is a paper cut-out.

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We also had a rather grandiose props like this one in the studio. It is handmade by one of the stuff at the Search Press and it was just perfect for my rockets.

Yes, we take matters very seriously.

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For each photo, we spent lots of time and care. Juan, the designer got this large branch from outside just for my owls.

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And he also sent his wife shopping to get some plastic seaweeds for this photo.
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You can tell already that this will be another very exciting book!

Cooking with Wonton wrappers

I was pleasantly surprised to find this in a small Asian cash and carry grocers.

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Wonton wrappers.

Now I don’t need to travel all the way to the Chinese supermarket to get them.

These are to make Wontons for a broth or a noodle soup. As a child, I liked the wrapper much more than the stuffing.

I quite often use them to make steamed Shumai.

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Shumai, also called siu mai or shaomai, are pork dumplings. It is a type of traditional Chinese dumpling served as dim sum.

Shumai is so easy to make. Zaozi may require a bit of skill, but anyone can make Shumai. It is simple, healthy and delicious. I cook them in a bamboo steamer. My boys get excited whenever they see the bamboo steamer on our dinner table.

Ingredients
Makes 20
200g ground pork
1 Tbsp ginger, grated, keeping the juice
1 green onion
1-2 dried shiitake mushrooms, rehydrated
1tbsp corn flour
Wonton wrappers
Green peas or corn kernels to decorate, optional

Seasonings
2 Tbsp. sake
½ Tbsp. sesame oil
1 tsp. soy sauce
½ tsp. salt
Ground black pepper

Dipping Sauce
Soy Sauce
Rice Vinegar
La Yu or English mustard (Japanese chili oil – optional)

Instructions
Mince shiitake mushrooms and green onions.

In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients and seasonings and mix well with hands until the mixture becomes sticky.

Form one of your hand as if you are holding a tube. Put a sheet of wonton wrapper on top. Scoop 1 tsp of the mixture on top of the wonton and push it in. Fix the shape with hands and push in a green pea on top. I didn’t have peas, and I used corn kernels instead. You can decorate it however you like.

Place the ones you finish on top of parchment paper or cabbage leaves inside the steamer.

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When you are done with wrapping, boil water in the wok. Make sure the water will not touch the bamboo steamer.

When the water is boiling, put the steamer in the wok. Cook over high heat for 7 minutes, reduce the heat and cook further 7 minutes.

You can enjoy variations with Shumai. Pork meat can be replaced with minced shrimps. You don’t really need wrappers either. You can cover them with corn kernels or short grain sticky rice. You can wrap them with cabbage leaves, too.
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Let me know if you come up with a new Shumai idea.

Upcycling projects

I am enjoying sewing more than I had expected.

I was going to do felt sewing to use up the fabric stash, but now, I am buying more and my stash is getting bigger instead of smaller! Sewing can be addictive.

I have been making little items and have discovered that you can upcycle lots of things around the house.

like bottle caps.

I made pin cushions with them.

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Apparently, I am not the only one who came up with this idea.I have seen cute designs in internet. My Facebook friend also told me that you could put a magnet in the cap so that the pin cushion would stick to your sewing machine. If you attach a hairband, you can wear it on your finger. How clever!

The method to make these is very simple.
To cover the outside of the cap, cut a sheet of fabric to the size and glue it.
For the top part, cut a fabric to 9cm in diameter, work a running stitch all around and fill with toy filling. Pull tight. Wet the inside of the bottle cap with liquid glue and squeeze the stuffed top piece inside. Leave to dry and decorate the rest as you wish.

I made a little bigger version of these using bigger bottle caps.
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Now, it is getting really fun.

Another project I enjoyed was this one.

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It is made with a core of a packaging tape. I added the base and the lid with cardboard circles. It is covered with cotton fabric first before it is added the felt fabric.

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I liked it very much and made another one. The second design has hares and tortoises on the side and an acorn on the lid.

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I think children can enjoy making them, too. You don’t really need to do any sewing and stick felt shapes instead.

Now everything seems to have a potential to become my craft material and I cannot throw away a thing!

The next photo session

I will be in studio next week again.

This time, it is for “Tiny toys to make”. This one is a small A-5 size book from 20 to make series.

I like this 20 to make collection and have several in my book shelf myself. The books are handy and inexpensive and give you good introduction to a new craft, too.

http://www.searchpress.com/search?terms=20+to+make

And when I was browsing their website, I found my 20 to make book listed already!

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Ha, ha! This must be a provisional book cover for promotion purpose, but it looks lovely.

You can see the book is a collection of mini toys. The projects are all so simple and easy and you can make one in a couple of hours. You can take it to a holiday and knit on the go, too.

Here are some of the projects. They are all pocket size.

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Usually, the photos for 20 to make books are done outside of the Search Press studio, but my editor kindly accepted my request. I am quite fussy when it comes to photos and do not like the sessions carried out without my presence. I also like their artwork team very much.

Recently, my editor asked for 21st project. This will be a special gift for readers.

I have many projects already made, but I gave it a thought and came up with this one.

Knitted rings.

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I do like these very girly stuff.

WATERSTONES book shop is currently running a promotion with a special discount on all my books. You can get a fantastic deal on my upcoming “Mini Knitted Toys” and “Tiny Toys To Knit” too!
https://www.waterstones.com/books/search/term/sachiyo+ishii

Off to Kenya!

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Mr. President Obama is in Kenya this weekend. My son is going there today as well to take part in World Challenge youth program. He will be travelling Kenya and Tanzania next 4 weeks.

When he signed up three years ago, it seemed that the trip seemed so far away. I cannot believe the trip is actually happening now. It still feels surreal to me.

He is going with 17 other students and three teachers from the school. They are accompanied by a tour organizer and also meeting up a local guide over there. Let’s hope he will turn up at the airport.

The group is going to be involved in volunteer projects, and one of them is to help building a school in a remote area in Kenya. They are also bringing some gifts and my son has bought 150 pencils.

There will be some trekking excursions. They will be walking 7 hours a day for 5 days with all that heavy loads packed in 65 litre bag. For me, it is strange some people actually like doing that kind of thing.

I think they are sleeping under the stars some nights. I wonder if you get to see the Milky Way there.

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I heard they would be taking a local bus for 8 hours from Kenya to Tanzania.

Sounds like a lot of fun….

It will be literally ‘No new is good news’. We will not hear from them unless something really bad happens.
No internet or mobile phones. We just have to prey to God to send them back safely.

I must be mad to agree with this whole thing, but if this is what he wants I guess I just have to let him go. He needs to live his life the way he wishes.

As a Japanese proverb, ‘If you love your child, send him out into the world’, yes?

I know he will have fantastic experiences and learn so much things that he would never be able to learn in a class room.
And they do get to spend time at the beach. They are also visiting a safari.

He wanted me to buy him a mole skin sketch notebook. I am looking forward to seeing what he would draw in it.

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He got this fortune last month! How timely is that?
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