knits by sachi

Home baking

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I am not a fantastic baker, but I do enjoy home baking.

I have two teenage boys. When they come home from school, sometimes they go straight to their rooms and lock themselves in for rest of the afternoon.

I know, I know, it isn’t too easy to be a teenager.

I bake to show that I care. It seems they cannot resist home baked biscuits and cupcakes still warm from the oven.

My grand mother used to make ice cream at home. This is more than 30 years ago and, making ice cream at home was very unusual then.

I don’t know how she got the ice cream maker or why she thought of buying it. She didn’t eat ice cream.

I think she got it only for me.

When she knew that I was coming to visit her, she would wait for me with her ice cream ready in the freezer. She had a tiny fridge with the small freezer compartiment.

Her ice cream had bits of lumps and my mother thought it was terrible.

But it was my favorite, my grand-ma’s ice cream.

I guess home cooking is all about love and memories.

The cookies I made yesterday didn’t exactly turn out the way I wanted, but they were still tasty and my boys utterly loved them.

Well, they said they did.

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Knitted Wedding cake

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I recently received a letter from my cousin whom I hadn’t spoken to for over 10 years. What a nice surprise!

Her daughter is getting married in June this year. I remember her as a little girl. I cannot believe how quickly time goes by.

Feeling a little happy with the news, I decided to knit a wedding cake.

This is something I always wanted to make; a knitted cake. Originally, I planned to add knitted flowers and make it more colourful, but, I changed my mind during the assembly process and made it quite simple. I thought the couple on the top may stand out more this way.

I wrapped the cake with knitted ribbon and made a bow on top.

I thought about inserting a cardboard, but I managed to make the base flat without it. I like my knitted items nice and soft without cardboard, wires or glue.

I would like to do a book on knitted gifts someday. “Seasons and occasions”, my file says at this moment. It is nice to knit something for your friends and family to celebrate happy moments together.

Many years ago, when I was living in New York, I once visited a shop which sells baking equipment for professional bakers. It is such an exciting shop. You can find literally anything to open a bakery.

There I heard a couple of girls talking to a shop assistant.
They said they wanted to make a wedding cake for their friend and needed large baking tins. But they had never baked a cake in their lives before, they said. Could it be that difficult?

I hope they did all right with the cake.
Even the cake didn’t turn out too nice, I am sure the bride appreciated her friends’ effort.

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Raccoon dog’s spinning wheel

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There are some fairy tales related to spinning wheels. You know “Rumpelstiltskin”, the imp who span straw into gold and the world famous “Sleeping Beauty” who gets pricked with spindle and sleeps 100 years.

My favorite is the Japanese folktale called “Tanuki no itoguruma” meaning raccoon-dog’s spinning wheel.

Once there lived a couple in the woods.

The husband was a woodcutter and his wife, a spinner. I think she spun cotton since we did not have sheep in our country.

There was a mischievous little raccoon dog which came near the house time to time. He would turn the vegetable patch upside down, so the woodcutter set a trap to catch the raccoon dog.

And there, he got caught.
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But the wife felt sorry and let him go.

“Don’t come back again. You will be cooked in a stew if you get caught.”

But at night when she was spinning the wheel as usual, she noticed a set of eyes peeking through the screen door.
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The eyes went round and round as the wheel turned. She almost burst into a laughter but tried to pretend not to notice him.
‘ He could be naughty, but such a little cute thing.’ she thought.

Harsh winter arrived and the couple went down the mountain to spend the cold months in the village.

And the spring. They went back to their house in the woods.

The wife noticed the piles and piles of cotton rods stacked in the workroom.
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She saw the raccoon dog spinning cotton with the wheel. When he finished spinning, he stacked the rod neatly just as the wife would usually do.

The raccoon dog noticed her and he ran away. But he turned around once and bowed to her.
How sweet.

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This is my favorite of all folktales. I read it when I was in primary school

The images are taken from the Japanese language text book and is painted by Yutaka Murakami. I truly love his work.

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Knitted dinosaurs

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I made a dinosaur set the other day.

I have been creating items of all sizes and shapes with free spirit recently.

I just knit whatever I fancy making. I get inspirations from everywhere.

It could be something I saw in a show window. You get to see many interesting things in charity shops.
Cartoons and images in internet are great source, too.

I’d like to create soft woolly figures for everyone to enjoy, especially for young children.

Children have phases that they become very interested in certain things and, I think dinosaur is one of them.
Adults get to learn a lot alongside of the children.

My older son had the shark phase and the big cat phase.

I remember taking him to the book signing and lecture event with Jonathan Scott, the author of “The big cat diary”.
We traveled all the way to London on a school night. It was a bit strange event, because they didn’t have books to sign! The book wasn’t ready. But it was nice to see someone on the television and we enjoyed his talk very much.

It is a bit of a shame that neither of my sons had the dinosaur phase.
Hence, I don’t know much about dinosaurs. My dinos are my own imaginations.

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It is fun to play with colours.

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Super easy Sushi

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Sushi is popular in the UK now. We get to buy sushi rolls in local supermarkets.

Rolling sushi needs a bit of practice. And if you do not quite sure what you are doing, you may end up in a big mess.

But there are many types in sushi. Basically, if you use rice seasoned with salt and vinegar, they are all sushi.
You don’t need raw fish, either. You can use cooked fish or meat. You can go vegetarian or vegan as well.

I make sushi with whatever I can find in the fridge. And I like fuss free, easy sushi called “Chirashi”, scattered sushi.

There are two different styles in Chirashi. The one I often make is popular in West regions where I came from.
As a child, I disliked raw fish and sushi was far from a treat. But I loved vegetarian chirashi with small bits of cooked vegetables scattered in seasoned rice.

You can buy all-in-one sushi seasoning vinegar which you can sprinkle over cooked rice, but if you don’t have it you can easily make some at home.

Sushi seasoning vinegar
4 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt

Place all the ingredients in a small sauce pan and gently heat it up until the sugar and salt melt. Do not boil.

Sushi rice is essential. You can not use long grain rice for sushi.
It is short grain rice and much stickier than Indian or Thai rice. I found pudding rice works as well.

Cook rice according to the packet instructions.
If you are using 600cc or 500g packet of sushi rice, sushi vinegar recipe above should be enough.

Transfer the cooked rice in a large bowl. We have a wooden “handai” for sushi making, but you can use any large bowl.

Sprinkle the sushi vinegar and combine. Try to separate the rice grain without mashing it all up.

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Add anything you like. I used poached and flaked salmon yesterday.
Tuna and smoked mackerel go well, too. If you are adding vegetables like carrot and long beans, blanch them and cut into small pieces.

It is a bit like rice salad.
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I put sushi in individual bowl and decorated with “kinshitamago”, finely cut egg crape and shredded nori sheet. You can use scrambled egg, too.

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This is fantastic when you have guests. You can make “sushi cake” if you put the rice in a mould and shape it.
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Update on Safari book

I received another draft from my editor. I think this will be the last for the Safari book.

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It has been a long, but fantastic journey. It is the best thing happened to my life apart from the births of my sons. Well, my book is my child, too.

After the photos, drawings and texts are laid out nicely, the book gets “styled”.

When I saw the draft in December, I thought the book looked great and there wouldn’t be much to do to it any further, but I was wrong. My designer has done an amazing job and I could see the clear difference.

My book is looking very proper.

I had made an request to insert footprints of each animal page. I made this request rather casually without giving it much thought, but it turned out to be a quite demanding task to research animal footprints and style them. I heard my designer, Juan, spent days researching footprints!

You can see them from the very beginning of the book.

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He has changed some fonts which gives the book a clean look. There are animal prints on some of the page background.

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Isn’t it nice?

The book made me realize why I love what I do so much. And I am so fortunate to be able to work with such a talented team.

I heard that the texts have been sent to an expert pattern checker. I don’t know how it is done, but I truly hope there won’t be much issues on my patterns.

The book will be sent out for printing in March and will be out in summer from Search Press.

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Three little pigs

Last year, I created characters from fairy tales.

I wanted their appearance simple and bit silhouette like, so I did not embroider eyes. They have no facial expression.

You can say this is Steiner approach. In Steiner education, dolls are made very simple in order to allow the child playing with it to improve or strengthen imagination and creativity.

They can be enjoyed as room ornaments, too.

fairy tales

This year, I am creating characters with a little different approach.

This is the first one; Three little pigs.
The wolf doesn’t look big and bad, but I decided it is ok.

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Since the animals are depicted like humans in this story, I thought this style suits them better.
They are still simple, but a little more features are added.

Yes, I am going for a cute look.

I find this story very interesting.
And I love the rhyme.

“Little pig, little pig, let me come in.”
“No, no, not by the hair on my chinny chin chin.”
“Then I’ll huff, and I’ll puff, and I’ll blow your house in.”

The story has everything you need to entertain children.

I still don’t know what “Not by the hair of my chinny chin chin” means. I have read it in Japanese, but the translation was even more confusing. I will just leave it.

The story may have brothers’ personality wrong. The biggest brother is usually cautious and clever. He would build a brick house. The younger ones tend to be more easy going and cheeky.
Well, in my household anyway.

Do you remember how this story ends?

Some says the wolf tries to come down from the chimney and got cooked in the pigs’ cauldron and eaten by the pigs. How awful! And I thought pigs are vegetarian, no?

I like the more gentle finish, wolf running away with a little sore bottom and never even thinks about returning to the pigs.

It is sad that someone has to play the bad guy.

This set works well as toys. I enjoyed the project very much.

And there are more to come, of course.

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Knitted German gnomes

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Many years ago, I saw funny looking knitted gnomes at my friend’s house.

I believe they are traditional German gnomes called “Zwerge”. My German friend said many people knit them in her country and even her uncle knows how to make them.

I loved the quirky looks and I wanted to have the pattern. I searched through internet and in libraries, but my efforts were to no avail.

So, I decided to make some on my own.

I think these gnomes are a little like flower fairies and, there are mountain flower gnomes, moss gnomes and berry gnomes. There may be earth gnomes and wind gnomes.

The knitted gnome I saw was much bigger than mine. There may be colour rules of which gnome should wear which colour.

But I decided to make them the way I like.

They cheer me up on a rainy day like this.

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St Valentine’s Day

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It is the St. Valentine’s Day today. Do we celebrate it in Japan? Yes!

Funny thing is, it is a bigger celebration in Japan than here in England.

In Japan, it is only women who give presents (mainly chocolates) to men. It may not be true nowadays but Japanese women are usually too shy to express their love. Therefore, Valentine’s Day was thought to be a great opportunity to let women express their feelings.

However, this is a custom that smart chocolate companies created to boost their sales. It has been awfully successful! Now chocolate manufacturers make more than half of their annual sales during the week before Valentine’s Day. Amazing.

I still remember my first chocolate I gave to a boy. I was 10 years old and had a crash on the boy in another classroom.

It was a heart shaped chocolate with peanuts (hope he didn’t have the allergy) I bought secretly for 50 yen (30 p).

I didn’t have a courage to give it to him in person, so my friend helped me.

We went to the same secondary school. We were friends, just friends without romance.

But many years later when I was going through my things at my parents house, I found a letter he wrote when we were in high school. Did I know about this letter?

It sounded very much like a love letter!

Sweet memories.
I don’t know where he lives or how he is doing now. But I allow myself to think about him only on the Valentine’s Day.
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Knitting miles and knitting hours

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I have recently registered to this program, KnitMeter. You count the mileage of your knitting and add to your blog on your sidebar as a widget. I wonder how much yarn I have used for my knitting so far in my life. I may have traveled around the world!

You can register here:http://knitmeter.com/

I need to start counting.

Once I heard that to be able to become proficient in one sport, you need to practice it regularly for 10 years or 14,000 hours.

Yes, that long.

I did a bit of calculation the other day on my boys’ Karate hours.

They have been practicing Karate and kickboxing for 10 years. I would say average twice a week. They may have done more if I include extra weekend workshops and gradings, but for simple maths, let’s say two hours a week.

2 x 52 weeks = 104 hours per year.

104 hours x 10 years = 10,400 hours.

Not bad. That is 433 days.

They have done Karate for 433 solid days without eating or sleeping.

What do I do when they are at the lessons? I sit in a corner of the room and knit.

So, I have knitted at least for 433 days non stop, but of course, I knit far more than two hours a week. Scary.

I know it is just numbers. But numbers can be quite fun sometimes.

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