knits by sachi

Living with MDS

Thinking of my mum, I knitted these.
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When my Dad sends me an e-mail without me writing to him first, he usually has bad news.

My mother has MDS, Myelodysplastic syndromes. MDS are a group of diseases in which the production of blood cells by the bone marrow is faulty. She was diagnosed with the illness sometime ago and has been getting blood transfusions every 10 days. It is believed that many patients develop leukemia a few years after the diagnosis although it isn’t always the case.

Together with new drug treatments, my mum has been relatively doing well.
Until this summer.

She had slight temperatures for a few days in August and was losing her strength. She ended up spending two weeks in hospital. She recovered a little but she is back in hospital again.

This time, the doctors suspect she has infections, possibly Sepsis, the blood poisoning.

I felt devastated. I was devastated the first time when I was told about her condition, but even more so this time.
For the saddest moment, I started preparations quietly. I asked Dad if I should fly to see her right away, but no, he said. I should wait for a few days until the test results come out.

Feeling restless, I started searching for charities related to her illness and I found this group; MDS UK Patients supporting group.

I filled in the membership form online and a day later, I received a very warm welcome by e-mail. I will be receiving the information pack soon but I can call them any time if I wanted to speak to them. I felt that I have found another family.

They offer regional meeting for patients and families and I would love to participate these although Mum is in Japan. Some patients may benefit from her story. She has been living with MDS almost 15 years (!).

I don’t want her suffering to go to waste and I think I can make a difference no matter how small that can be. I want support from others, but at the same time, I want to support the people in the same situation. I shouldn’t shut everyone out and cry all by myself.

I am also hoping to be able to make use of my sewing, knitting and cooking skills for fundraising. I may not be able to run a marathon or climb Kilimanjaro, but there must be something I can do for the group. I have been working as a craft designer for last few years, and it is the time to up a game and offer something more.

I have decided to book a trip to Japan for winter holidays, hoping that I will not need to travel any earlier. Five years ago when we visited her, she said it would be the last New Year’s Day that we could celebrate together. We are extremely lucky.

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Do you knit for a charity? Any good fundraising ideas? I am always interested to hear from you.

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Knits for Christmas

How early is too early to start hand making for Christmas?

I used to feel reluctant to work on Christmassy projects before November. I worried I may spoil the fun if I started too early.

However, I didn’t have much choice this year. I am not at all complaining, it is all good thing.

I needed to write texts and draw templates for Christmas felt projects book. Photograph sessions are coming up soon.

On top of that, to my pleasant surprise, I received a lot of commissions from several knitting magazines for Christmas issues.

The whole month of June, I was making Christmas ornaments, Santas, reindeer, dolls and toys!

The very first one to come out was this one; Let’s Get Crafting magazine; Christmas pixies.

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I was asked to make three elves, fairies or pixies although I have no idea what the differences are. The kit did not contain skin colour, but I think it worked fine.

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The kit has tinsel yarn. I used it a bit for the outfits and the hats. It also has ‘made with love’ labels which help you personalize your gift.

In this issue, I found my Nico cat, knitted by one of their readers!

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It is fantastic to see my original pattern knitted by someone else. It is the best compliment. She have had improvised and added her personality which is all so very nice.

The second one is this; Knit Now magazine.

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Christmas Teddy and Bunny.

I used James C. Brett Legacy DK for this project. This yarn is 100% Superwash Wool and very nice to the touch. I found it gives nice neat finish. It is inexpensive and surely, it is one of my favorite yarn.

There should be more patterns coming out next month. I am looking forward to seeing them in print with hopefully, beautiful photos.

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Japanese comfort food, Oden

It is getting chilly every day and in the cold weather, we think of comfort food.

comfort food
noun
food that provides consolation or a feeling of well-being, typically having a high sugar or carbohydrate content and associated with childhood or home cooking.

Yes, that is right, it tends to be calorific, but it doesn’t have to be.

You can name a few Japanese comfort food; Miso soup, Okonomi-yaki, noodles and Onigiri rice balls. Many Japanese comfort foods are quite healthy. There are sweets as redbean soup and roasted sweet potatoes.

For me, the ultimate comfort food is this; Oden.

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Oden is a Japanese winter dish consisting of several ingredients such as boiled eggs, daikon raddish, potatoes, konnyaku yam cake, and fishcakes stewed in a light, soy-flavored dashi broth. Ingredients vary according to region and between each household. Mustard is often used as a condiment.

Oden is often sold from food carts, and most Japanese convenience stores have simmering oden pots in winter. I often cook it at home.

The cooking method is super easy. You can cook it in advance, which is convenient for some occasions.

Ingredients serves 4
For broth

1200cc water
1-2 strips (4cm x 10cm) Kombu sheets
1tsp Dashi granules if you have
3 Tbsp soy sauce
3 Tbsp rice wine
1 Tsp salt
1 Tsp Mirin sweet wine

Oden
4 hard boiled eggs
4-6 medium sized potatoes
6 fish balls
Mooli daikon raddish

I cannot get a variety of ingredients for the pot like I used to in Japan, but I manage with whatever available in supermarkets and Asian food shops. It is a bit unconventional, but sometimes I add carrot,shallots, mini sausages and meatballs. In Japan, we cook fried bean curd, yam cakes, octopus, beef tendons etc.

You can be creative and cook pretty much anything you fancy, but the crucial ingredients are Daikon raddish and konbu sheets which give the broth distinctive flavour.

Cooking method
1. Prepare broth.
2. Slice daikon into 1 inch pieces and remove the skin.
3.Remove the corners so that there are no sharp edges. This will prevent daikon from breaking into pieces. I also make cross incisions on both sides so that flavour penetrates.

If you prepare rice to serve with Oden, preserve the white water from cleaning rice. Put daikon and the white water in another pot and cook, uncovered, until a skewer goes through. It is believed that the rice water gets rid of bitterness from daikon.

4. Peel potatoes and place them in the broth. Start heating the pot.
5. Add boiled eggs, daikon raddish, fish cakes and other ingredients you are using. Cover and cook 30 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave it for 2-3 hours.

When I don’t have fish cakes, I use crab sticks. Add them just before you serve since they get too soft and fall apart if you cook them too long.

This is our version.
I know we don’t get much selection, but daikon cooked in this way tastes utterly fantastic and the broth has deep Umami from kombu sheets. I always keep the left over broth and make vegetable soup or miso soup the following day.

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Oden can be prepared a day before so that all the ingredients absorb Oden broth. It actually tastes much better the following day.

Cover and re-heat when you are ready to serve. Oden is often served with Karashi (hot mustard).

Here is my little knitted chef. Happy cooking!
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Knitted Wine Gnomes for autumn

There was a project I wanted to do for some time.

Gnomes making wine. It is a timely project for autumn.

First, I thought of making little fairies or children in the forest, but alcohol and children don’t go too well. I also wanted to add a bit of humour by creating a drunken one, so, I settle with gnomes.

Gnomes are adults and they can be mischievous, yes?

I searched some images which may give me good inspirations and this was one of them. I found it on Pinterest.

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I like the naughty look on their faces!

I always search for images when I plan a project. It is great that we can find loads of photos and illustrations online. My finished work usually turn up very different from the original source, but inspirations often come from other artists’ creations.

It seems that the prints are available from one of the sellers on Etsy.

Now, my wine gnomes.

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They are rather young looking and do not have very mischievous look, but I think they are cute. You can see the resemblance to the Pinterest picture in their positioning.

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My most concern was the keg size. I needed to make it big. I had a rough idea on stitch counts, but was very nervous at the making up stage. I think it turned out fine.

My drunk gnome is sleeping by the grapes.

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And here is the full cast.

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I have a friend who owns a winery in France. After graduating uni, she went on studying wine. She passed the notoriously difficult sommelier exam, met a man in life who happened to own a winery and moved to France. Very sadly, he passed away all of a sudden a few years ago, leaving her and their young children. However, she took over the winery and now, she runs it on her own! She is utterly amazing.

Her teenage son is currently in a winemaking school (only in France?)
I would love to visit them some day.

Her winery is called Simon Bize et fils (Simon Bize and Sons) and if you are interested, the website is here:

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Mapo Tofu cooking lesson

We should have done more of these cooking lessons at home.

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My son has just started university this autumn.

We had have been told that student accommodation was completely full and had to wait until the waiting list opens.
We spent hours discussing other possibilities and looking for alternatives, but did not find a solution. We came to a conclusion of him commuting from home for a while. It is not entirely impossible to do so although the train journey takes an hour and 30 minutes one way.

Just 5 days before the school starts, the school sent him an e-mail to notify him that there was a room available.
It is three minutes away from the campus and reasonably priced. He jumped on the opportunity of course.

We went to shopping in a hurry and got him the basics to start the uni life; bed linens, toiletaries, storage boxes and underwear. We left the cooking stuff since we didn’t know how well their kitchen was equipped.

He moved in last weekend.

This week, I received a long list of kitchen essentials he said he needed. I placed orders online. They should be arriving to him in no time.

I wish I had taught him more about shopping, meal planning, food safety and cooking. He can cook a little, but his repatoire is rather limited.

Just before he took off, he had a go at cooking this dish; Mabo-doufu

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Mabo doufu or Mapo tofu is a popular Chinese dish from Sichuan province. It consists of tofu set in a spicy red chili and bean based sauce. It is very popular in Japan, too. The sauce usually cooked with minced pork meat,spring onion, ginger and garlic. It is very easy to prepare.

Ingredients (serves 4)
1 packet Tofu
100g minced pork meat
1 spring onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 Tbsp grated ginger

sauce
300cc chicken stock
1 Tbsp miso paste
1.5 Tbsp Soy sauce
1 Tbsp rice wine
1 tsp red bean paste
1 Tbsp corn starch dissolved in 1 Tbsp water
salt and pepper to taste

1. Place tofu in a sieve or colander to extract excess water. Alternatively, heat tofu in a microwave for one minute.

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2. Heat wok with 1 tbsp oil and cook ginger and garlic until fragrant. Cook meat until brown.
3. Dice tofu and add to the wok.
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4. Add sauce and cook, covered for 15 minutes.
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5. Add spring onion and cook another minute. Add corn starch and cook until the sauce thickens. Season with salt and pepper.
Done!

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Some recipe has Douchi or black bean sauce, Chinese five spices and other ingredients. You can experiment with whatever you like. A little unconventional, but I sometimes add baby spinach leaves at the end.

If you are not at all keen on spicy food, you can omit red bean sauce entirely and cook it with miso and soy sauce only. We usually go easy on chili. You can cook it in a deep frying pan instead of a wok.

You can buy a smaller Tofu in a paper packet at a supermarket if you are cooking for 1-2 portions.

It is easy and quick. This is one of my son’s favorites and he wanted to learn how to make it. He likes serving it over steamed rice in ‘Bonburi (bowl) style’.

Happy cooking and good luck to all freshers.

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