Category Archives: A bit more about me

Red Glow over Tokyo

Last week I reached my kanreki and here in Japan, that calls for a great celebration with family and friends.

Kan” refers to a “cycle” and “reki” means calendar and together “kanreki” means a full cycle around the calendar or more precisely around the Chinese zodiac. Along with the 12-animal Chinese Zodiac, each person is born under one of 5 elemental signs (Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, Water). The animal that represents the year changes with each new year, while the element changes every 12 years after one full revolution through all of the animals. These two cycles take 60 years (12 animals x 5 elements=60 years). This year 2009 is not simply an Ox year, but more specifically a yellow or Earth Ox, just as it was 60 years ago when I was born. Thus I have seen a full cycle. This is my kanreki year.

To celebrate, the person turning 60 years old usually wears red clothing that traditionally includes a red hat (e-boshi) and a sleeveless red vest (chanchanko). The color is symbolic since the word aka-chan or literally, “red one” means baby in Japanese. A 60-year-old person is once again a “baby” who is about to embark on their next 60-year cycle. It is a rebirth. Wearing red symbolizes that renewal of life as the second cycle begins. Sixty-year-olds are expected to use their kanreki as a year of reflection. They are to look at their lives and achievements and then plan which direction they would like to take as their lives begin a second sixty year cycle.

And so this weekend, I celebrated my birthday in Tokyo with my son and his family. And in a blend of American and Japanese traditions, we painted the town so red that even the astronauts looking down from the space station had to ask, “Oh, what is that red glow over Tokyo this weekend?”

And now life begins all over again.

red glow over tokyo


There’s been a long hiatus since I last blogged and Hisashiburi! is the Japanese greeting between friends who have not seen each other in a while.  During the past 6 weeks, I’ve traveled back to the States, said good-bye to my dear brother, grieved his loss and visited family in Arizona and Maine.  I attended the annual American Embroidery Conference in Georgia, exchanged warm hugs with old friends and learned a few new tricks for mixing computers and thread.   After returning to Japan, I spent some time with my son, daughter-in-law and grandson in Tokyo to renew my spirit and enjoyed warm spring days playing in the park with my grandson.

And now I’m back to my life in Kyoto.  Hisashiburi!

Über-Amazing and tickled pink

A few weeks ago, I got this amazing award. In fact, it’s called the Über-Amazing Blog award. Just knocked my socks off and I’ve been blushing ever since. It’s taken me a few weeks to make this shy admission in public that I have been so honored.

My nomination for the award came from Nicole who writes the wonderful blog at, which I highly recommend in return. Not only is her own blog a great read, but she’s also led me to many other interesting blogs through the links she’s chosen to list in her sidebar. Thank you, Nicole.

The award does come with some obligations and the rules are as follows:

  • Put the award logo on your blog or post.
  • Nominate at least 1 blog that you consider to be Uber Amazing!
  • Let them know that they have received this Uber Amazing award by commenting on their blog.
  • Share the love by linking your post about this award to the person you received your award from.

And so my nominees, if I may also nominate two, are:

Although on hiatus at the moment, the story archives are a wonderful collection of 3 to 5 panel manga stories published one panel per day during the past year. Mulele is a talented artist, for sure, and the tone of his writing is calm, modest, and appealing. I love the philosophical musings told through the life of Elbis the cat, and I’m looking forward to a new set of adventures in 2009. In the meantime, enjoy the archives. They’re so worth reading.

  • A Journey of Machine Embroidery by Sadia Andrews at

Sadia was my first digitizing teacher at the American Embroidery Conference in 2007. Though I haven’t seen her in a few years, I do keep up with her through her blog. For those of us in the digital embroidery world, Sadia is a constant font of information and inspiration.

Isn’t it lovely how blogs make the world go round. Thank you, Nicole, Mulele and Sadia for contributing so much to my world.

An interesting Gaijin

Gaijin is the word used to describe foreigners in Japan. Literally translated, the word simply means “outsider”, but can be loaded with undertones depending on the attitude of the speaker. And just as in every other country, Japanese attitudes toward foreign immigrants run the political spectrum from conservative to liberal. Dai Media - preparing to film

Often our unfamiliarity with Japanese customs sometimes leaves people annoyed or shocked and sometimes just amused. But there is also curiosity: Why did we foreigners come here? Why do we stay? What do we like about our lives in Japan? And to address those questions, local television shows sometimes like to interview “an interesting gaijin“.

So all of that gives a little background of how I wound up taping a segment for Japanese TV this week. The show will air in mid-October, but the taping took place at my house yesterday afternoon.  Shown above are Hiroko Hayashi, who translated for me and the director, Takashi Matsushita as they prepared to begin taping. I admit to being quite nervous at the start but both Hiroko-san and Takashi-san were such wonderfully charming and delightful people that I soon relaxed. Sharing my love for Kyoto and talking about how much I have learned from Japanese design made conversation easy.

Computer embroidery is a highly developed commercial industry in Japan, but home embroidery machines don’t seem to be as popular here as they are in other countries. Perhaps that’s why the producers found my efforts to digitize so surprising. As he left, the director said he thought it was one of the better segments he had filmed and promised to send me a DVD of the finished segment. So I suppose in a few weeks, I’ll see how it turned out.

First birthday

my first birthdayIt’s hard to believe that my little blog is celebrating its first birthday, so I thought I’d mark the occasion with a picture from my own first birthday party. There I am between my two older sisters Susan and Paula on the right and left.  And now here I am, a long long way from there.   

August has flown by in a blur of heat an humidity and I’ve barely found time to post, but despite the aggravations of the climate, it’s been a wonderful month of good times with great friends, lots to enjoy and lots to celebrate even though I failed to find time to blog about it all.  


Finally, my website has a front page!

I wanted something different, something that reflected me and Kyoto and kimono and sewing and embroidery and just everything. So being associated as I am with an internationally famous manga artist, I asked for a little help. After looking over my site, especially the first post talking about my childhood Ginger dolls, he came up with this sketch of me as a Japanese kokeshi doll. Then he took the sketch and morphed it into a wonderful welcoming entry way for my evolving little website.

For those less familiar with kokeshi, here’s a little picture showing the real thing. A classic Japanese toy carved from wood and painted in bright colors.

So now come look at me in the final version of my new front page, click here.

And to see more work by Mulele Jarvis, the artist who created this wonderful front page for me, click here.

Getting from there to here

It’s said that a journey of 10,000 miles starts with a single step, but after a few million steps or so, it’s good to pause for a backward glance and consider the distance you’ve traveled. My current life’s journey started with birth in West Virginia, then I grew up in New Jersey, left home for New York City, and raised my own son in San Francisco. I thought I’d been all over the map, but would anyone have predicted I’d move to Japan? I guess my sense of the map just got a little bigger when I moved here.

I suppose there might have been a premonition of my travels in the number of childhood hours I spent trying to fabricate miniature kimono for my collection of Ginger dolls. Like so many others with a life-long bent for textiles, I had a seamstress grandmother who must have transmitted her “fabric-loving gene”. But there must have also been some special twist that made a little girl in a New Jersey farming community search out Asian costume books at the town library, then try to replicate the images in doll-size. So now I live in Nishijin, the traditional weaving district of Kyoto where shopping for life-size kimono is one of my favorite pastimes. And in an odd twist on my childhood passion, I now get my kicks converting kimono fabric to western clothes.