knits by sachi

Fun with popping corn

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We had a large pack of popping corn that my husband had bought a few months ago.

Let’s hope it is ‘a few months’ not a year yet, but I think popping corn kernels keep quite long time.

I have to admit we have been lured to the microwave popcorn in the past. It is kind of fun, watching the bag grow with exciting sound of popping corn inside. But I also wondered what was inside the bag to achieve this miracle.

I am not a super health nut, but I am a little worried that the bag may be full of chemicals and additives that you don’t want to be consuming.

The healthiest way to make popcorn is cooking in a pan over the hob of course. But if you cannot bother to do this task plus washing up afterwards, you can use microwave with a large heat proof bowl.

Ingredients
50g popping corn
2tbsp oil
1tsp salt

In a large microwavable bowl, put popping corn and coat with oil well. Add salt.

Cover with a cling film. Pierce tiny holes (5-6 is enough) with a cocktail stick.

Heat in a microwave for 5-6 mins.
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It works!

With this method, popcorn can be salted nice and even. You can avoid over salting.

If you like the cinema style butter popcorn, use melted butter instead of oil. I will let the butter cooled a little to avoid it burn before it cooks the corn kernels. (Your kitchen will smell gorgeous after the cooking!)

Popcorn is a healthy snack. It is low in sugar and fat. But if you want to be a bit naughty, you can enjoy flavouring popcorn.

I have tried flovouring with dark chocolate and that is one of our family favorite. You can add chopped nuts, too, if you would like. You simply melt about 150g dark chocolate, pour over the cooked popcorn and leave until the chocolate sets.

I also tried Strawberry milk flavour, chilli flavour and Green tea flavour and they all worked well.

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For Strawberry milk flavouring, you need
4 tbsp freeze dried strawberry flakes
150g white chocolate

For Green tea flavouring, you need
2 tbsp fine green tea powder
150g white chocolate

Melt white chocolate and stir add strawberry flakes or green tea powder. Pour over the popcorn and leave until the chocolate sets.

You can run a flavoured popcorn competition. That may be a good idea for fund raising.

Can you think of wacky flavours?
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Ginger Teriyaki chicken

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A friend of mine called me the other day and asked if she could make Teriyaki without pre-packed Teriyaki sauce. She went to a supermarket but could not find the Teriyaki sauce.

I have never used the sauce, because you can make Teriyaki so easy without it. I don’t think anyone use ready made sauce in our country.

Teriyaki is food glazed with soy sauce and mirin. Mirin is rice wine similar to sake, but with a lower alcohol content and higher sugar content. You can find it in the Oriental food aisle.

To make the basic Teriyaki sauce, just mix soy sauce and mirin with the ratio of 1:1. That simple.
If you don’t have mirin, use sake rice wine with a little bit of sugar (1 tsp or so).

Our favorite Teriyaki chicken recipe is this one. It is shallow flied, but you can omit flouring and pan saute the chicken if you would like. That way, you are making more traditional Teriyaki chicken. Add the marinade liquid at the end of the cooking for glaze.

Ingredients
400g chicken thigh
marinade
2 tbsp juice of ginger (grate flesh ginger and squeeze the juice)
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp rice wine
1 tsp mirin sweet wine

flour
oil

Cut chicken to bite size and marinade for 15 to 30 min.

Shake off excess liquid from the meat and flour the chicken lightly.

It is that simple.

A lot of people think Japanese cookery is complicated with lots of exotic ingredients and seasonings. May be that is the influence of the ‘Master Chef’. But Japanese home cooking is very simple and easy.

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Shallow fly the chicken.IMG_6998IMG_6999

My boys like this chicken much more than the one from fast food restaurant. They fight over the dish.

We have it with a bowl of rice, but you can have it as a sandwich filling. If you are lucky and have a bit of left over the next day, you can sprinkle grated cheese and heat it up in the oven.

But it rarely happens in our household.

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Chinese New Year

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The Chinese New Year is just around the corner. This year, it is 19th of February.

We, Japanese, celebrate New Year the same time as the Western country and it is the 1st of January.

We do not have the Dragon Dance, but we do have our version: the Lion Dance.

Adapted from China, the shishimai (Lion dance) is often performed around the New Year by one or two lions accompanied by bamboo flutes and drums. It was performed as a prayer for household safety and a good harvest. At the end of the dance, the lion “bites” the heads of some watchers, to bring luck.

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The Lion is operated by two dancers with their heads inside the lion. The lion’s mouth can be opened and closed.

In China, the Dragon Dance is much more popular as you may already know.

Dragons are of course legendary animals, but they are important to Chinese people who think of dragons as helpful, friendly creatures. They are linked to good luck, long life and wisdom. Chinese Dragons are associated with storm clouds and life-giving rain. They have special powers so they can fly in the air, swim in the sea and walk on land.

Dragon dances are performed at New Year to scare away evil spirits. During the dance the performers hold poles and raise and lower the Dragon. Sometimes one man has a ‘Pearl of Wisdom’ on a pole and he entices the Dragon to follow him to the beat of a drum, as if searching for wisdom and knowledge.

I thought it may be a little too ambitious to knit a dragon, but I tried it.

Here is my knitted dragon.

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I have dragon operators.

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A little boy with the pearl and a girl with a Chinese lantern.

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The larger figures are about 9cm tall, and the dragon is about 30cm long, I think. I was a little worried if I could make a nice dragon, but I am happy with this one.

Have a very happy Chinese New Year!

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Little knitted dangler charms

I hope many had a nice Valentine’s Day. It is nice to tell your loved one how much you care. We don’t say the word often enough.

Since I made the little heart’s pattern, (see the post “Valentine Hearts” I think I am addicted to making little knitted dangler charms.

I tried with mushrooms first. These are knitted with DK yarn, but if you have my “Mini Knitted Woodland” book, you can use the toadstool pattern from the book. To make it small, you may want to use 4-ply yarn instead of DK.

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I now find that 4-ply yarn is perfect for these tiny projects.

I use Double Knit yarn (8-ply) for most of my toy projects because it gives the knitted toys firmness without getting too bulky. 4-ply is a bit too delicate and my animals from the Mini knitted series will not stand up too well. I guess you would need super fine needles to knit bodies, too.

But I do have some 4-ply stash and I always wanted make a use of it. I tried the medium sized heart from my pattern and I think it worked well. I made a dangler, adding a tiny bell on the string.

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And I quite like using 4-ply now.

These are super quick projects. You can make one in 15 to 30 minutes.

This is one of my favorite; my quirky chick.

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It is so simple, and I can hardly call it a pattern, but here is how I made it.

Materials
You will need

* Small amounts of 4-ply soft yellow, yellow, dark brown yarn
* Stuffing
* A bell
* a string

Equipment

A pair of 2.5mm-2.75mm (US 1-2) knitting needles
A sewing needle with a large eye

Pattern

Body

With soft yellow, cast on 15 sts and st/st 10 rows, starting with p row.
Break yarn, draw through sts, pull tightly and fasten off. .

Beak
With darker yellow, cast on 5 sts. Cast off.

To make up
Sew the body, using the fasten-off end yarn. Work a gathering thread along the cast-on edge. Stuff the body.
To flatten the base, pierce from the centre of the head, with a threaded needle, leaving the yarn end out and take it out from the centre of the base and repeat. Pull gently to shape. Using the same yarn, make a few back stitches on the head, leaving small loops every other stitch. Cut the loops and fluff the yarn. Attach the beak. With dark brown yarn, French knot the eyes. Thread the bell and attach the string to the chick.

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The trickiest part of this project is threading the tiny bell! I wet the tip of the string with liquid glue and harden the tip and thread the bell. That works well. If you know the better way, please use it.

I am making lots of different designs. I can’t stop!
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I will be sharing more patterns of these tiny items if you would like. You can also make pins and enjoy with your knitted garments and hats.

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Book review

The book review of “Mini knitted woodland” is in this issue of Knit Today. (Oh, the deer on the cover is not my design, by the way..)
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There were a couple of exciting events last week.

One of them is the Facebook promotion run by my publisher. They are offering three signed copies (yes, I signed them) as the competition prize. You simply ‘like’ and ‘share’. You may win one of the copies.

So, please enter.
https://www.facebook.com/hashtag/giveaway?source=feed_text&story_id=10153064242063909
The post has been attracting many people and there are lots of entries. I am very pleased.

I also received an e-mail regarding a book review by “Knit Today” magazine.
I often get commissions from “Knit Now” magazine and I have also had an interview by “Let’s Knit” magazine in the past, but this is my first time appearance in “Knit Today”.

Well, as an author.

I have once appeared in the letter from the reader section as an amateur knitter. I still remember the excitement when I saw my photos printed! I showed the article to all my friends. I also sent a copy to my mum in Japan.

I still have the issue, of course. It must be about 5 years ago when no one, including myself, even dreamed of me writing knitting pattern books.

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This time, the review of my book is in the magazine. Life is full of surprises.
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It is a very nice review. The article calls me ” a big name in little knits”! I am very flattered.
What I like about the review is that it says the book is for everyone, both adults and children to enjoy. This is exactly what I wanted this book to be. I wanted to create a book which knitters and non-knitters can equally enjoy.

So what is next?

I will be working on my third book soon. The photo session is booked next month and I can hardly wait.
Some people ask me which is my favorite book. I have decided to answer just like Charlie Chaplin and say “the next one!”

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The point of origin

It all started from this place, a small children’s bookshop in Tokyo.

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My boys were still very little, aged 2 and 3 years old. They instantly fell in love with this place with all the charming and colourful books and toys. We also found that some activities and classes were offered in a room upstairs and soon, we became regular visitors.

I may loved this place more than my boys did. I could browse the shop on my own while my boys were enjoying activities in another room. It was a very first time that I could spend some time without my children in sight. You may think it is terrible, but I felt at peace. Raising small children was exhausting and I had very little help from anyone else.

There was a quiet music of lyre playing in the background. This place was my therapy.

And here, I came across the “Waldorf doll”
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A Waldorf doll (also called Steiner doll) is a form of doll used in Waldorf education. Made of wool and cotton, using techniques drawing on traditional European dollmaking, its appearance is intentionally simple in order to allow the child playing with it to improve or strengthen imagination and creativity.

The shop sold kits to make these dolls.
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They also offered doll making courses. I wasn’t too sure what I was getting myself into, but I signed up with one. These dolls looked so sweet and I just had to make one.

My sewing skill was very limited. I hadn’t have sewn any clothes apart from the apron I made in the middle school. I didn’t own a sewing machine.

And knitting? I hadn’t have knitted a stitch in my life.

After I made my first doll in the class, I was completely addicted to the craft. I bought all the kits I can get my hands on and kept making one doll after another. There are many styles.

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This is one of my favorite. I don’t do wet felting much, but I think I did rather well.
Babies in a pea pod.
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Doll making has opened many many doors for me. I learned dress making, knitting, crocheting, hand dyeing, spinning yarn, dry and wet felting. It is never too late to learn a new skill.I also met many nice people through the craft. If you are intrigued, you should at least give it a go. You certainly do not want to miss all the fun.

You can buy kits online, but if you have never made a doll before, it is a good idea to have a tutor. If you contact a Steiner school, you may be able to find someone to show you the skill.

I wonder what would have happened if I didn’t walk into that bookshop that day. There may be lots of life changing opportunities just around the corner without us knowing.

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