Category Archives: Cool Japanese Stuff

World’s Cutest: Doughnuts

I’m Facebook friends with the pastry chef, cookbook author, and busy food and travel blogger David Leibovitz, whose The Perfect Scoop is still, to me, the revealed wisdom of all things ice cream, sorbet and granita. Today David posted a link to the Serious Eats website, which proposes that the World’s Cutest Doughnuts  come from Japan. Like, surprise, surprise!

All photos: [Photograph: floresta_mama on Twitpic]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If I got to choose my doughnut, I’d ask for the bewildered calico kitty front left.

 

They’re made by a chain called Floresta Nature Donuts. Here’s the 411 from Time Out Tokyo website:

“Floresta, which also goes under the tag name of ‘Nature Doughnuts’, is a growing contender on a national scale, with shops now in locations as far flung as Kyushu and Hokkaido. With its main shop in Nara, the owners are a husband and wife team who wanted to make guilt-free donuts that they could feel good about giving to children, so the flour, eggs, salt and sugar used are all organic and domestically produced. Floresta avoids the large batch production that many other outlets use, and only makes donuts as needed, meaning that they may well be sold out if you don’t get there early.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I like organic and domestic, but if theses had the ingredient list of, say, Little Debbies, I doubt that your kid would hesitate a minute before he wrapped his grubby little hands around one of those bunnies.

Here are some “guilt free” frogs:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Four of each, please! And if they give baker’s dozens in Japan, I think I’d like an extra frog.

Here’s the link:http://www.seriouseats.com/2011/08/photo-of-the-day-cute-japanese-cat-doughnuts.html


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Filed under Cheap and Cheerful Object of the Day, Cool Japanese Stuff, Food, Incredible Edible Egg

Batty about Boxes: Masu Edition

Actually, I think there are bat homes called bat boxes, a concept I find troubling — can a weasel box be far behind? But I was using batty in it’s colloquial meaning: I love boxes.

Shoe boxes, Faberge boxes, Whitman’s Sampler boxes, Tiffany blue boxes wrapped with a white satin bow, velvety hinged ring boxes, the maroon box that contains my daughter’s American Girls doll Samantha. But man, do I love Japanese boxes, all of them, with a concentration in bento boxes.  Another post, another time.

In the United States we have a noble, elegant rival to Japanese boxes: it’s just too bad the Shakers were celibate. But my Shaker sewing box will be the subject of another post.

In fact, my second favorite movie ever was based on a Robert Louis Stevenson story called “The Wrong Box.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I mean, that cast! Peter Sellers alone, as a cat loving abortionist who uses his kitties as blotters is a reason to queue it up on Netflix.

I digress.

If you have two  square pieces of paper and one minute you can make a beautiful box, an origami classic called a masu box. You need a fast and dirty receptacle  for some earrings or hairpins? Bam! Taking some fudge to a coworker on his birthday? Bam! You just want someplace to collect pocket change? Bam!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here are a few I’ve made, from origami paper and flyers  tucked into my mailbox. The biggest one is about four inches square, the yellow one is smaller than a Starburst candy.

I like these instructions, because I always prefer photos to diagrams:

http://www.origami-instructions.com/origami-box.html

Please go there. Square up a couple of pieces of printer paper, and make The Right Box.

(I was without power last week — it’s not about me being lazy.)

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Filed under Cheap and Cheerful Object of the Day, Cool Japanese Stuff, Less than 50 cents, Media, Origami, Paper

Popping Up, Re-engineered

I mentioned that when I was in LA I visited the Japanese bookstore of my dreams, Kinokuniya in Little Tokyo. Boy, was I a good girl: I got out of that crack house with change from a Benjamin. Most of my moolah went towards one item: The Art of Paper Folding for Pop-up , by Miyuki Yoshida.

It contains thirty stunning examples of paper cutting/origami pop-up inserts for cards, from so simple I could get it, to those so elegant and complicated that they require the skills of a sushi chef and a mechanical engineer. In fact Yoshida gives her profession as “paper engineer.”  I’m more like a paper hod carrier, an I proved it again today.

You see this is one of those too cool for school “art” not “craft” books. There’s a short author bio and thassit — not one line of type. No dedication, no acknowledgements, and certainly no directions! You’re given the elegant finished product, then you’re on your own.

I chose the first example which calls for but one cut and five folds. I spent some time with a T square and a pencil, a watercolor pencil and a pair of scissors, and loved the result. Here’s a kiss to my favorite card maker:

Cute, huh? A talking mouth or a cheeping beak? But the experience was enlightening: I was making it too complicated and I was doing it backwards! Hey, maybe I inherited one tiny engineering gene from my father, a chemical engineer who spent his professional life in the newsprint business. That makes him a paper engineer, right?

OK, I cheated. Drawing that perfect square on the spine of the card was a pain. Of anyone I know, who owns more square colored stuff? Why moi: origami paper, and thanks to my friend Priscilla, small squares. So I decided to make a trio of cheeping beaks, suitable for Easter or National Poultry Week.

Step one: Paste the squares, diamond style, on the spine of the card:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Draw a faint line in pencil across the center of the diamond. Fold the card, and cut across the line:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

nd here’s the genius part: turn the card inside out so that the colored squares are on the inside. Fold the sides downward , in what in origami-speak is a valley fold. The center lines should be pinched upwards , in a mountain fold, which the refolding of the spine encourages. This is helpful: what the pop-up looks from the wrong side:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ta Dah!

Yacketty yack!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, bored during a thunderstorm. I trotted out my essential, in too many ways to mention, paper. I had to figure something out, and realized I was making it hard for myself. Then I conjured my paper engineer and made myself laugh. Funnnnn.

 

 

 

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Filed under Cheap and Cheerful Object of the Day, Cool Japanese Stuff, Less than 50 cents, Origami, Paper

Four Generations of Wedding Headgear

I thought it was a beautiful wedding. The dress was lovely, the reading from Romans unfamiliar to me, the trees along the nave of the Abbey brilliant, the Bishop of London’s sermon first class, if you’re fond of sermons. The hymns were faves of mine, and I was thrilled to discover that the great liturgy of the Church of England hasn’t jettisoned my old buddy the Holy Ghost for that feel-good Holy Spirit.

And, oh the hats! For me, it was bittersweet, all that marvelous millinery, because, as I’ve mentioned, my head size approximates that of a teenaged hippo. I can’t buy a hat off the rack, and I won’t soon forget the mix of horror and hilarity when I proved it to my daughter last December. That simple knit cap worked itself north in four seconds then tumbled to the floor. Now, I’m sure many of the ladies in the Abbey had their toppers custom made, but we ladies in the ‘Ville are spending our cash at the gas station.

I thought the Duchess of Cambridge’s veil,( to say nothing of the Cartier tiara) was perfection. I know Kate doesn’t own an advanced degree, but she can sure pick out wedding headgear. A+ to you, Ma’am.

I haven’t pulled out the family albums recently, but I did yesterday. I present four generations of family brides, blushing and unveiled. But check out the trends, from 1918 to the present. (My apologies in advance: something funky’s going on with picture posting and spacing.)

The not-so beaming Annunziata Rovai — no one’s saying cheese in this pic! But I think the long sheer veil and the flower wreath tiara are classics.

Here is Patricia Sweeney Rovai, my beloved mother-in-law in 1940 or so. Her father-in-law, the glowering groom in the first picture, was by profession a ladies’ tailor, and once ran the bridal department at Bergdorf Goodman. He watched “They Died With their Boots On” five times because Pat wanted Olivia de Haviland’s  dress  and veil. He did a masterly job.

Toronto, 1950. My mother’s dress was almost medieval in its elegant simplicity, and I loved it.All those buttons! (I’d peek into the trunk where it was stored — I wasn’t at the wedding!)  But the veil’s kinda meh — sorry, Mummy. They were getting shorter.

St. Matthias Church, Westmount, Quebec. Here we are signing the registry, just like Kate and Wills  — we hired the Boy’s Choir too, just as they did. We’re talking a four inch veil here, added by the millinery ladies at Holt Renfrew, where I worked. The turban — allow me to brag — was one-of-a kind Yves St. Laurent couture, a gift from my boss, the couture buyer at Holts. Yep, the millinery ladies stretched it gently for two weeks, until it fit.

Los Angeles, 2005. No veil! No hat! Nothing but some beautiful baroque ringlets and random rosebuds. (She’s pictured here with the 1950 couple.)

So there you go friends: from long drifting and gossamer to virgin locks in four generations. Should we ever renew our vows, I’m wearing a fascinator.

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Filed under Cool Japanese Stuff, Free, History

Furoshiki:A New Japanese Good Thing

How odd that I decided I’d write about a classic Japanese folding technique last night, before I woke up to the God awful news about the earthquake today. My extended family and friends in Japan are just fine, thank God, but it’s impossible not to think of the loss of life and the material destruction to so many.

I don’t believe in reincarnation, but if I did I’d guess that I was a Japanese lady in a former life. I love the engineering elegance of the everyday: the gardens, the paintings, the crazy Baby Doll outfits young ladies wear around Tokyo, Hello Kitty, woodblock prints, tempura, washi paper, manga, ikebana, quilting, bonsai and — of course — origami. I know I’d love their whack toilets. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gJazvumHNyk&NR=1

Back to Canada and Canadians, a subject I know better than I know Japan and Japanese. Canadians don’t travel or shop without their reuseable fabric shopping bags — I felt dirty admitting to the checkers that I’d need plastic grocery bags. (And pay twenty five cents per bag.) My father is so kind and so Canadian that he’d take only the Metro bags to Metro and the Loblaws bags to Loblaws. When I asked why he was such a dang fool he said:”Well, I don’t want to hurt their feelings.” Oh Daddy, I roll my eyes.

Well I discovered this week that the Japanese have the reuseable tote bag nailed, with a square of fabric. That’s it: a square of fabric — silk, rayon, polyester or cotton. It needs to be thin — so the knots don’t get too knobbly, and strong. The fabric square can be a wall hanging, a picnic tablecloth, gift wrapping, a book cover or —  a shopping bag.

Please click: Don’t you want an apple carrier? http://furoshiki.com/techniques The double wine bottle carrier is soooo cunning.

What you have to do is name your corners:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then you have to find a big, light strong square of fabric. The lightlbulb went off and I checked out my scarf drawer.My late mother had it covered: a yard square hand- painted silk scarf from Japan. Merci Mummy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then I grabbed some random objects and dumped them in the center of the scarf:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I tied corners A and B in a square knot, likewise corners C and D. Mes amis, it made a tote, related to the bundle that the Depression hobos toted on a stick.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It totally fits in the hand. It works! If I were picking up a few items from the supermarche or Walgreens all I’d need to do would be to unfold the scarf I’d been wearing, French Lady style, tied around the strap of my purse.

I like this twist on the basic tote: Pull one handle through another and you have something tighter and cooler:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This isn’t like trying to remember the intricate fold pattern of an origami model that I’m not quite up to — Furoshiki seems organic and practical.Check out that link and have some fun.

Furoshiki : another gift I’ve received from Japan.

 

 

 

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Filed under A yard of fabric, About a buck, Cool Japanese Stuff, How Cool is That?

Twenty Second Tulip

My cold whomped my week. I remember a couple of trips to Walgreens for OTC meds that did exactly jack, blinding coughing jags and ears that haven’t cleared since I walked onto the tarmac two Thursdays ago. Oh yeah, there was that awesome Cooks Illustrated coffee cake I made a week ago.

What crushed me was my lack of ambition. Blog? Eh, about what — Kleenex? Start that apron I’m so excited about — a commission? Sorry, Janice, much as I’ve longed for my sewing machine, the thought of standing at the table, pinning and cutting seemed as likely as running a 5K. Pitching that book idea? Puhleeze.

I got comfy on the couch with John Le Caree,  Laurie R. King and Margaret Maron. It sounds like more fun than that it was.

I found a lovely thing, only two days ago, when I could lift my eyes to the stack of mail on the hutch : a teeny magic package of origami paper — maybe an inch and a half square. He said:  “Um, I think Priscilla sent it to you.”

Today I felt well enough to eat apple pancakes and sausage. I still can’t hear and cough too much, but I took on The Times Sunday puzzle, and played with those adorable paper squares. This tulip model has many creators, the stem’s from Gay Merrill Gross’s Minigami.

My pix are so bad that that these tulips might take you more than twenty seconds, the first time. I’ve included the stem pattern, but if you don’t want to fuss, pull out your green pencil crayon and draw your stem and your leaves.

 

 

 

 

Fold the square in half horizontally, then turn one side up slightly higher than the original point. Fold the left side up to match.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Flip the flower over and fold in the points.

Turn it over, et voila: tulip. Twenty second tulip.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s the stem: use a bigger square than you used for the tulip.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fold the paper in half, then unfold.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Turn the sides into the fold line, then do it again:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is fun: fold the bottom point up :

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then fold the model in half vertically, left to right. This is fun too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then flatten it, and pull the stem out to the right. Stem and leaf.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you grab a glue stick and a blank card what do you get? A card with a tulip pasted on it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I like it. Thank you, Priscilla.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under About a buck, Art, Cheap and Cheerful Object of the Day, Cool Japanese Stuff, Origami, Paper

Folding Fun: The Origami 2-Pocket Diamond Envelope

Lou’s become so inured to the arrival of the UPS guy that he didn’t even ask what the handsome dude in khaki shorts was handing me — it must be more apron fabric, right?He didn’t even look up from his thriller when I ran upstairs with my booty and broke a nail opening the box that held my first new origami book in five whole months! That’s a four years record.

Hello gorgeous!

Origami Card Craft by Karen Elaine Thomas. Because I own a shelf  of origami tomes, I was delighted that many of these projects were ones I’ve never seen before — I may not like all of them, but I love many of them, especially this envelope. The envelope is an enormous origami topic, and one that makes me yawn, mostly.

Not this one, and let me count the ways. It’s so easy — I achieved perfection in one go, in one minute, which isn’t often the case. The folding pattern is elegant. The closure is clever. And somehow, the interior is divided into two pockets, which is magic. I used a 12 inch square , which resulted in a 4 1/2 X5 1/2 inch result. C’mom, grab any old paper square and fold along.

Step one: Paper in diamond formation, colored side down.

Step 2: Fold it in half.

Step 3: Align the paper pointy side up, and turn down the top edge until it touches the center fold.

Step 4: Eyeball the bottom edge into thirds, and fold the right point to the two thirds mark. Step 5: Fold the left point to the right edge. It’s starting to look like an envelope.

Step 6: Fold the left point back to meet the left corner.

I’m going to show the next move in two pix — it’s the cool part.

Step 7a: Stick a finger into that point you folded in Step 6 and  open it out. Then:

Step 7B: Flatten it along the center line so it forms a diamond. The card and the art show ticket are in two separate interior pockets.

The reveal! Tuck down the top point into the diamond.

Not being the austere or sensible type, I folded up a few. Here are some of them:

Dear Reader, go find a piece of square paper and give it a whirl. So much pleasure for so little effort, and a standard 8 inch piece of origami paper will make a wee envelope, perfect for carrying a few stamps around in your purse or wallet. Hmmm, stamps … waxed paper maybe? I’m off to the pantry.

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Filed under Art, Books, Cool Japanese Stuff, How Cool is That?, Less than 50 cents, Origami, Paper