December 2013 Archives

25 Words

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Running away to the circus confused me. Spent ten months wondering "What next?" Tried resting, contests, midwifery - not my things. Travel, teaching, performance? Yes. Circus.

Here are all the 25 word summaries since I started this annual project in 2001:

Hooping took me up to Tohoku, down to Niijima, and around the world on tour. Ukulele, yoga, improv, songwriting, skating, visiting, & fundraising filled the gaps.

Mother Earth trembled and futures fell apart. Uncertainty ruled us for months but in the end I'm still in Japan, married, hooping, and feeling happy.

Lived my hoop dreams, wheeee! Connected, created, collaborated, choreographed, costumed, capered, camped, coordinated, but then crashed hard. Ouch. Healed and found my truth. Full circle.

Rose petals in blue sky and the scent of muddy elephants conducted me to presence. An intense upwelling of joy revealed the universe inside me.

I made dresses, meals, 100 necklaces, friends. Grew food. Witnessed a birth! I am greying, wrinkling and fading, but I started hooping, so who cares?

Food ruled 2007: went almost vegan, developed recipes, and lost 10 kilos. Also sewed Morsbags, made political statements with robots, and explored Tokyo real estate.

Forty was a pleasure/pain year - a roiling emotional sea. Heartbreaking anguish half drowned me but also un-dammed a flood of patterns, photography and creativity.

This year, a lesson in how to bear pain and loss. Travel doesn't cure heartache; friends ease the agony. Healing and peace flow like water.

Did more, finished less. Strengthened friendships and traveled. Constructed 18 videos, knitted scarves, shared my pencils and my love. Still seeking realisation of my principles.

Hello Tokyo finally done
Neon Chopstix now begun.
'Twas mostly work but also fun.
Hosted friends from far away.
Another visa for three years' stay.

Celebrating four years in Japan, I exercised my right brain and my poetic voice. I filmed then procrastinated. I waited for the axe to fall.

Spent seven weeks on holiday in Maui, China, mainland US. Wrote lots, taught many, earned little. Saw the inside of my head. Didn't do enough.

Develop 2014

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Develop is my guide word for 2014. 

I am excited about this one. It sings of continuation, growth, progress, and new ideas but without demanding perfection. I might develop an act, develop my skills, develop photos, develop the community, develop some software, develop a passion, develop a plan.

I also like it because the longer I look at it written down, the funnier it seems. It's pointy in the middle and loppy at the end. A bit devilish. And it even sounds good backwards: poleved.

Here are my guiding words and themes for previous years:
2010, connect:

Christmas 2013

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Such a nice holiday. I made dinner. Tod brought champagne. Gifts appeared from all over the planet. We feasted and festivated all evening.


The Zous did the decorating. They gilded peanuts, made felt elephant banners and ornaments, and had a lot of fun with thumbtacks. 

Noteworthy gifts: sheepskin slippers from Tod and elephant pyjamas from Mom. They are so cozy, I might spend the rest of the year indoors as a result. I have a huge supply of chocolate, too. I don't need to go out for food.

Christmas Afternoon

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It is mid-afternoon on Christmas Day and I am counting down the hours until Tod arrives home from work and we celebrate the holiday with dinner and gifts. 

Dinner is in the oven. I suspect that roasted pork was a poor choice; sauerkraut isn't the most festive of scents. Rather than sugarplums, I envision post-war Europe in my head. Grey days, grey clothes, grey moods. I ought to be scrubbing laundry or tending wailing children. I am wearing a headscarf today, as it happens.

But it matters not because I have managed to sing over a clave rhythm without messing up either the lyrics or the strumming. It's taken me weeks to get it and now I can sing our Latin-y version of God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen. Tod will be surprised.

Honey Gingerbread Cookies

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When we were travelling in Prague and Poland at Christmas a few years back, we fell in love with lebkuchen and pirniki, German and Polish gingerbreads. They are hard to find in Tokyo, so this year I decided to try making some myself. There is a bewildering variety of European gingerbread so settling on a single recipe was impossible. I selected two and they are both quite delicious. I'm republishing them here with my adaptations so that I can come back to them next Christmas.

Honey Lebkuchen
makes 6 dozen squares
(original recipe:

1 cup sugar
3 eggs
1.5 cups honey
1 T cinnamon
1 t cloves
1/4 t coriander
1/4 t cardamom
1/4 t ginger
1/4 t allspice
pinch nutmeg
5 cups white flour
5 t baking powder
2.5 cups almonds powder/flour
1/2 cup ground hazelnuts
3 T raisins
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, chopped
50g candied orange peel, chopped 

1 .75 cups powdered sugar
juice of 1/2 lemon
blanched, skinless whole almonds (optional)

Cream eggs and sugar. Drizzle in honey (if it is thick, gently heat to liquid), stirring to blend. Mix in flour, spices, baking powder, nut flours. Fold in chopped nuts and fruits. Turn the dough onto a parchment paper on your baking tray. Press or smooth the dough to about 2 cm thick. 

Bake at 150C/300F for about 40 minutes.

Mix the powdered sugar and lemon juice, adjusting with water if needed to create a thick liquid consistency. Spread the glaze evenly over the gingerbread while still warm. Decorate with blanched almonds. Cut into squares when cool.

Store in an airtight container. The flavours develop with time, so doing this in advance is a great idea.

Torun Pirniki
makes several dozen
(original recipe:

300 g honey
60 g butter
60 g sugar
1 t coriander
1 t cardamom
1/2 t cinnamon
pinch cloves
pinch ginger
3 t baking powder
50 g almond flour
370 g while flour
1 egg yolk

Gently heat the butter, honey and sugar until the butter melts. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.

Combine dry ingredients. Pour in the honey mixture. Add the egg yolk. Mix thoroughly. Roll out to 1/4" thickness and cut with cookie cutter. Bake at 170C/350F for 7 - 8 minutes or until golden brown.

Glaze with the same lemon glaze as above or dip and drizzle with chocolate, ganache, or glaze.

Store in an airtight container.

Holiday crafting

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Inspired by an upscale designer set of blocks, I made my own for the festive season. They are a lot of fun to arrange and rearrange whenever I like. Three side are pictures: the Christmas elephant, pine trees, and candles. Three side are letters that spell out joy peace love; fun holidays!; and happy new year. Also, leapy hooper. Sort of excited to discover what other messages lurk in these letters.

Protest in Japan

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Today I went to the Diet to show my disapproval of the National Secrets bill. It's a terrible law that would choke press freedom, allow the government to cover up anything in the name of national security, turn any issue into a matter of secret record, and even make demonstrations illegal. Bad, bad, bad. 80% of the citizens disapprove, but it is passing through the legislative process anyway. Even though I am not sure protest is a great game-changer, I feel strongly enough about this to get out there and be counted.

The plan for the rally was to create a human chain around the Diet. I arrived to find a woman with a megaphone giving instructions to a couple dozen people, so I joined the crowd and took my place in line. At first, it was mostly just waiting around while more and more people came. Police made sure we stayed where we were supposed to and they were mostly polite. Press were abundant and there were professional and personal cameras everywhere. 


I struck up a conversation with two young women standing next to me and we ended up sticking together for the rest of the afternoon. Just as the human chain was about to begin, we three were asked to move out of the main line and off to the side. None of us understood why until we linked into the chain that ran across the intersection in front of the Diet. Aha! Two pretty young ladies and a foreigner - of course they wanted us to move into the limelight. We made good pictures. I have a feeling you may see us in the papers or on TV, keep an eye out.

The chain was only completed twice and only during green walk signals. As soon as the green man flashed, everyone unlinked hands and ran to the curbs. Even our careful obedience of the law annoyed the police and they stopped us from doing it a third time. Still, it was fun to be part of it while it lasted.

My friends and I decided to walk around the Diet to see how big the protest was. We stopped to listen to some speeches about how this law is too easily abused. We joined in some protest songs:

Himitsu, himistu, himitsu Abe-chan!

At the very end of the rally, exactly 90 minutes after it began, we rejoined the human chain and chanted, shouting "Against the National Secrets Act!" in Japanese. HIMITSU HOGOHOU HANTAI! There were all sorts of slogans promoted by different groups who came to the rally as well as some inventive signs and costumes. Most stuck to the topic at hand, but there were a few that included an anti-TPP (also worth protesting) and a No Nukes message on their signboards.


Although I am not sure that our protest made much difference, I am glad I took part. I really despise this bill.

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