Scented Things from the Garden

Surprisingly, my lavender plants survived the winter. They seemed to suddenly turn green with a flush of new leaves after looking gray and completely dried out for months. What a tough little plant! Now it's sending out these lovely scented purple flowers.


In my little pot of herbs outside I'm trying out lemon verbena for the first time. The leaves have a very sweet lemon scent. Tried it as a tea, but the hot water seems to destroy some of the fragrance.

Lemon Verbena Tea

Peonies are possibly my most favourite scented flower - I could smell their sweet, delicate fragrance forever. These ones are from my mother-in-law, who saved the last blooms from her herbaceous peony plants for me.


Noodle-y Salad

When it's really hot and humid, I sometimes lose my appetite for rice. On those days, I like to make "noodle-y salads" - cold noodles + fresh vegetables + dressing/sauce.

Spicy cold noodle salad

A Korean version, with a spring onion, chives, carrot, tomato, cucumber, a spicy sauce and 냉면 (naeng myun - chewy noodles made with potato starch, sweet potato starch and buckwheat).

Cold Soba Noodles

Another way: soba (buckwheat) noodles, cucumber, bell pepper, spring onion, carrots and peanut sauce.

I just use whatever veggies I have and if I'm feeling fancy, I'll add chicken or shrimp. In any case, it's a perfect meal for hot summer days.


Nature in the City

A bright sunny day spent at the park. Walking near the pond among the reeds, under the blue sky:


Evidence of animals at work:

Beaver Cut Tree

Up close, you can see the beaver's large teeth marks:

Beaver Damage

The cheery, vivid yellow of forsythia in bloom:




The brief spell of summery weather is over - there's a cold wind howling outside as I write this now. But while the temperatures were up, I got to enjoy the outdoors with a picnic in the park.


I got there on my new bicycle.
 New Bike

Ate in the sunshine, surrounded by clear blue skies and trees in bud...Budding Trees


Spring Refresh

It's been so unusually warm for this time of year, that we've pulled out our Spring clothes much earlier than usual.

Hello to sneakers again:
Still splattered with glaze from last year's pottery classes.

Hello to Spring clothes too:
One Piece
I bought this light cotton one-piece in Tokyo a couple of years ago.

We also spent the weekend doing a big Spring clean of the living room, rearranging the furniture and de-cluttering. Our home feels refreshed and more spacious now. Spring renewal!



Shelling fresh peas for dinner:
Shelling Peas

Today was a bright, warm day with lots of sunshine. Took a long walk to the bookstore. The sidewalks were filled with people. People in t-shirts. People in sunglasses. People eating and drinking on patios. People out of winter hibernation. Suddenly it's a different city!


The Seeds Have Arrived

My order of seeds arrived!

Top row are veggies for my mom who rents a small plot of land every year to grow food.
Bottom row are flower seeds for my balcony.


Seeds for mom: sugar snap peas (early and mid-season varieties), lettuces, black kale (yum!), spinach and carrots (Royal Chantenay - sounds fancy, no?). She also grows lots of garlic, tomatoes, onions and Korean veggies like  ("moo" - radish) and herbs like 깻잎 ("ggaennip" - Korean perilla).

For myself, I got two kinds of morning glories - Heavenly Blue (mostly bright blue) and Persian Star (mostly pale blue). I think they'll look nice mixed together. Other repeat flowers from previous years are nasturtiums and sweet peas. New ones are marigold (Lemon Gem - edible!), baby's breath and summer forget-me-nots.



Home made pizza is delicious! I can go crazy with toppings I like and make the crust as thin as I want.


The dough recipe is from Joe Pastry. He shapes his pizzas into rough circles by hand, but I roll mine out because I like a really thin crust. He also has a fancy brick oven, which I don't obviously have in my apartment, but an upside down baking sheet makes a good enough hot surface to bake the pizza on.

This one has pineapple, spicy salami, provolone, sweet onions, tomatoes and dinosaur kale.
(I love dinosaur kale. I've been putting it in everything lately!)


Looking forward to Spring

Despite a sudden burst of winter snow recently, my thoughts are turning to Spring. Maybe because the sun feels a big brighter and warmer now when it's shining.

I'm looking forward to a new season of plants on the balcony. What seeds should I order this year?

I always grow morning glories to cover the rails and give us some privacy. The grow so vigorously and flower so abundantly they are always a favourite of mine.

Morning Glory

Other contenders are cosmos and sweet peas, or maybe I'll try something new this year like miniature dahlias or marigolds.

In addition to flowers, I always make room for some basic herbs like mint, thyme and rosemary. Last year I tried dill for the first time. I didn't use it very much for cooking, but the flower heads were very pretty - like fireworks.

Fernleaf Dill

I'm hoping the lavender I started from seed will come back this year. With the mild winter we've had I think there's a good chance!

With plants, come insects. Some are troublesome, like aphids, but beneficial insects are great, such as big bumblebees and ladybugs. Last summer, I was so excited to find these ladybug eggs on the underside of a morning glory leaf:

Ladybug Eggs

The ladybug babies (which don't look anything like ladybugs - they look like strange lizards) would soon hatch and munch away on the pesky aphids. Natural pest control.

Sometimes the garden vistors are surprising. This spider who was hiding in the the rails was huge - about an inch long:

 Wolf Spider

He was so furry, like an old man spider. I kind of hope he visits my garden again this year!


Souvenirs from Tokyo #4

Tokyo has lots of lovely, well curated vintage shops stocked with old timey goodies from North America.

Sometimes it was a bit surreal to be surrounded by items from your childhood even though you're on the other side of the world. For instance, at a shop in Shin-Koenji, I found school desks exactly like the ones I used in kindergarten. They even had Irish Spring soap (my dad used this in the 90s) and Lip Smackers (remember those?). It was a trip down memory lane.

This shop even had the twin of a Fireking mug I've had for years and years. Of course we bought it, and now they are a happy pair.

Vintage mugs

These cheery McDonald's mugs also came home with us:

Vintage mugs

We stumbled on these Yoshitomo Nara cups in Shimokitazawa. They're sold as one cup sake drinks and were only about two dollars each. The sake inside wasn't great, but the cups are adorable. We brought them home to use as drinking glasses.

Yoshitomo Nara sake cups

That third one has the remains of last night's wine in it.


Brown Tweed

While watching a bunch of River Cottage episodes, my attention was occasionally drawn away from the food and farm animals to Hugh's tweedy English sweaters and vests.

It took a while to find a tweed I liked. It had to be 100% wool and I wanted the flecks of colour to be harmonious with each other, instead of loud, garish colours that looked too busy together. In the end I chose the new Rowan Tweed in Keld, a chocolatey brown with flecks of dark red, golden brown and dark brown.

Brown Tweed Pullover

The pattern is the Seamless Raglan from Knitting Without Tears by Elizabeth Zimmermann. It's my favourite sweater pattern. I like pullovers with no waist shaping and seamless sweaters are so comfortable to wear since they stretch and move in all directions. This time I made a double thick folded crew neck opening - I like how plush it is!


Undo and Make New

Something I really love about knitting is how easy it is to undo. Undo a little to fix mistakes, or even undo the whole thing.

A few years ago I made a garter stitch scarf. I was teaching myself the continental knitting style, doing row after row of knit stitches, but my gauge was too tight so the scarf ended up a little stiff and consequently little worn after completion. Over the holidays I wanted to make a new cabled scarf, so I got out the neglected old scarf, found the end of the yarn, and...

Old Scarf

...rip, rip, rip. Undid the whole thing, row by row. Soaked the wool and let it dry to relax the kinks a little. Then rewound it into new balls of wool and knit it all into something new:

New Scarf

The wool is Highlander by Alpaca With a Twist, a blend of alpaca and merino. It's soft, has a nice drape and knit up quickly on size 9 needles. The colour reminds me of cookies and cream ice cream.

New Scarf

Warm and thick with cabled goodness. Perfect for today when it was -27°C outside with the wind chill.


Two delicious snacks I ate recently:

Sea Salt Chocolate Chip Cookies

1. Sea Salt Chocolate Chip Cookie
A huge, dense cookie from my local coffee shop with the perfect amount of chocolate and sea salt on top. I'm not really into cookies (is that crazy?) but this cookie was seriously good. The best cookie I can remember eating in fact!

Muscat Grapes

2. Muscat Grapes
I've eaten Muscat grape flavoured gummy candies in Japan (where gummy candy flavours get that specific) but I've never come across them in fresh form until last week. Very, very low in acidity, these grapes were so refreshing, mild and sweet. I couldn't stop snacking on them.