Wednesday, November 10, 2010


Today I knit for the first time in almost a week.  It was strange.  Forgetting is a funny creature - no matter how many times you say a word or make a nupp or tie your shoes, there is a distinct possibility that one day, you will have a moment where you look at the thing in front of you and go, "Huh.  I totally knew how to do this at some time in my life."  Today I picked up my most recent project and started knitting, and it felt foreign and awkward and clammy in my hands.  I think I'll blame it on the cold.

As far as projects go, it's a pretty one.  Madli's Shawl, from both Knitted Lace of Estonia and a back issue of Interweave.  This was the kind of thing that I used to look at pictures of and sigh, because I didn't think I could do it.  And aside from my distracted hands, I've certainly proved myself wrong on that front.  It is, however, a long project - I have two 500-yard balls of laceweight, and I just finished the first ball.  The repeats are pretty short, so it makes for easily memorized knitting.

The yarn in particular is gorgeous - it's Artyarns Cashmere 1, an unbelievably soft single-ply that feels like cashmere and shines like silk.  It's the same yarn as the turquoise scarf below it, which has gotten a lot of wear so far this trip.  The lavender yarn in particular also smells amazing.  Every time I pull the scarf out of its bag, I catch a distinct whiff of a strange but intoxicating mixture of hard candy and some sort of aromatic hydrocarbon.

So, if you happen to see me walking around mumbling happily with a blob of lavender shoved in my face, that would be why.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Post 201! A few things I love right now.

Miike Snow - a fantastic electropop group from Sweden that produces tracks that manage to evoke big city lights and big city alienation, frozen lakes and stretches of snow, and smoky little bars, simultaneously.  Probably my favorite tracks on their eponymous first album: Sylvia, for starting out with a simple piano and heading off into an orbit of synthesized otherworldly gorgeousness; and Animal, for maintaining a perfect balance between its shouty exuberance and laid-back tempo.  Plus, c'mon, who doesn't love a jackalope?

These little flowers I've been seeing everywhere.  When I leave for school in the morning they're folded up and look a little like ballet slippers.  They also happen to be just about my favorite color ever.

This is the first time that I've ever noticed them open.  Anyone know what they are?

Feeling better.  I also really like feeling better.  Still wearing the mask, though, which has produced a surprising number of kind words and "feel betters" in the last two days.

This dress, from goulash on Etsy.  Serious classy cute happening here.

Antique rose petal wrap bow belt.  I've been crushing on this and her obi belts in pretty much every color for about two years now.  From elizabethkelly on Etsy.

I haven't knit in about four days, between being sick and being busy with schoolwork.  Must make effort to remedy!  Must not blog instead of getting important things done!  Must not read style blogs in procrastination of homework!  Must be a good student!  Oh world, why don't you have more hours in the day?

Images copyright Miike Snow, goulash and Elizabeth Kelly Accessories

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Sick weekend

Ooh, look, shiny!  Pay no attention to the fact that I couldn't possibly have taken this picture this weekend!  Tower outside the Daibutsuden at Todaiji, Nara, in celebration of the 1300th anniversary of its founding.

I'll be trying out some new things on the blog soon - switched up the editor to the new version, and having a tech-savvy friend help me out with layout and such.  Figured it would be a fun thing to do while cooped up in bed on a weekend.  Stay tuned!

Today I was supposed to have lunch with my Oberlin advisor this morning, then go to a practice session at a local jazz house and out for okonomiyaki and sake with my jazz piano teacher afterward.  However, after a feverish day spent mostly asleep yesterday and still feeling like a small troupe of guinea pigs was running laps in my skull this morning, I decided to go to the practice session and call it a day.  I've finally mastered the fine art of wearing a mask whilst also wearing glasses today: I think the trick is to tighten the flexible part of the mask around the bridge of your nose as much as possible, then slide the glasses pretty far down your nose - it lets the warm air bypass the glasses where they would usually get caught between your eyes and the lens.  Oh, the things you must think about because you're an idiot and forgot to bring a single pair of contacts to Japan.

It's funny, some of the things that are unique to Japan and yet make a lot of sense for living in the States as well.  Here are my top three so far*: 

- Wear a mask while sick.  At the very least, it keeps you from coughing/snorgling your ooze onto everything quite as much, even if it doesn't stop your germy exhalations from coming into the world completely.  Also, there's an added bonus of keeping the air you breathe in warmer and more humid than the air outside, which seems to help clear the cold sooner.

-  Wash your clothes in a washing machine, and use a nifty little hanging rack with clips to air-dry your clothes.  It requires a little more forethought - for example, if you needed a pair of pants to wear the same day, it's probably not the best option - but saves on electricity and heat damage/shrinkage to your more delicate clothes!

-  Shower before jumping into the tub.  That way your bath is nice and clean, and if you're like me, you won't have to try to dunk 20something inches of soapy hair underwater while simultaneously attempting to not drown.

And last but not least, a small gripe:  I have a pair of Rodier slacks given to me quite generously earlier this year.  The hand and their tendency to wrinkle if you look at them sideways tell me it's linen, the tag tells me it's 100% wool.  Fine.  I washed them last week, and as I expected, every wrinkle washed out, felting was non-existing, and the hand still felt exactly like freaking linen.  Maybe it was a mistake in tagging or translation, but it still makes me a little frustrated.  And, ok, a little smug.

*disclaimer - it's entirely possible that some European countries do these things as well, but I have never been there so I'm going to have to claim ignorance!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Thrifted Marc Jacobs

This week at Kansai Gaidai, the Japanese students are having a culture festival, complete with supercheap tako yaki, yakisoba, hot dog stands and a mini flea-market. It was at said flea market where I found this Marc Jacobs printed thermal, for an awesome ¥500. It's really cozy and a little (read: way) more punk rock than I usually wear. I guess this is my week for going a little outside of my style comfort zone, and so far I've had a ton of fun with it. Today I loaded on the black eyeliner and realized as I was reaching for pants to wear with it was that it really begged for skinny jeans - the first time in my life I have ever thought such a thing, and correspondingly I don't own a pair! I think I did all right, though. My host mother asked while I was eating breakfast if I had a party or something to go to, to which I laughed awkwardly and said, nope, just going to school.

And, in fact, tonight is a night for staying in. A Kansai Gaidai Death Plague is going around, and I seem to have caught it. I felt bouncy enough this morning, but by the time I got home this afternoon my brain felt pickled. My host mother gave me some unknown orange tablets - which prompted a hilarious moment where I had just downed all three, suddenly realized that she may have meant for me to pocket two to take later, and asked her, panicked, I am supposed to take three, right??!? Yes, indeed I was. Crisis averted.

Now it's time for me to drink my weight in fluids and head to bed for what I'm sure will be the most pleasant night of sleep ever. At least this means I can stay in and knit while watching Mad Men all day tomorrow and not even feel bad about it!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

It's Cold in Kyoto

Trip to Kyoto today! I've been wearing my Pendleton wool skirt a lot lately, because holy crap has it gotten cold in Hirakata. My host mom has given me an extra blanket and a super fluffy cover for my futon, and right now I'm huddled up under the covers with my jammies on, and still cold. Since it was so cold this morning, I decided to layer up to go to Kyoto with my friend Stephanie. I was nice and toasty all day - my genius plan, it worked!

But it did not stop some high school girls from talking excitedly about my hair flower while Stephanie and I were ordering frozen yogurt. Aw.

I've also been tossing around the idea of cutting my bangs super short when I get back. Between past Project Runway contestants, awesome Ravelry members, and some old-school sirens like Audrey Hepburn and Bettie Page, the idea has sneaked into my mind that I, too, might be able to pull off the short-bangs look. It's a lot of upkeep, but my current hair is low maintenance and right now sort of looks that way too. Once I get back to the states I'd be able to put in the time to cut bangs regularly, although I'll probably ask for a second or third opinion before any chopping goes on!

What do you guys think?

So, a big part of the reason we went out today was to go shopping! The first time I trekked out to Sanjo, I spotted a little shop that carries the brand Pagong, which uses traditional kimono textile designs in modern designs. The prints they carry are stunning, and ever since I've been dreaming of a kicky little dress that I could rock with tights and boots. And today I found it. It's a little different than what I usually wear, and I think it needs either a nipped-waisted sweater or a belt to accessorize. But holy crap, is it comfortable, and the fabric is to die for. When I came out of the dressing room, five Japanese women and Stephanie squealed "cute".

I tried on several things in the shop, including a maroon skirt with orange chrysanthemums and a super sweet black and pink cherry-blossom dress that fit perfectly in the waist but not through the chest. The whole concept is very cool - updating a very traditional look and using it on swingy dresses, skirts, henley tees, and men's Aloha shirts. I paid a little more than I usually would for a garment, because I haven't made any big purchases since I've been here save for necessities like my cell phone. I have great respect for a brand that has continued to be handmade even after success - there are three other stores in Kyoto. With the amount of time and work that got put into it, and a certain amount of comradery I feel towards others who make things from scratch (and manage to eke out a living from it, which I really hope to do one day too) I have made it my One Big Purchase of my time here. I'll be skipping the daily lattes from here in, but oh, it's so worth it.

And, lastly, Stephanie and I managed to find a vintage store before I got my dress, and I found this gorgeous high-collared, beaded sweater for a very reasonable price - about ¥2800. I like the way it echoes Nordic sweater designs - prints of which are all the rage here right now, on gauzy shirts, in true sweater form, on leggings, etc. etc. etc. - with a sly nod to Chinese influences with the collar and the classic American sweatergirl look. Plus it's super warm. A few beads are on their last threads, but after a couple minutes with a sewing needle this one will be ready to go.