Sunday, January 29, 2012

Winter Waterfall Hunt

On Wednesday I had some time to get out and explore. I went to one of my favorite valleys but when I got to the entrance of the road that leads up to a waterfall there was a sign. It said the road was closed while they did some repair work through February. It wasn't clear if it meant cars, people, or both. I opted to jump down the valley and check out some other territory. It was probably for the best because I found this nice little clove of tranquility as it started to snow.

Winter Cascade

The valley continues to reward me with gems scattered up and down its length. Eventually I'll find all the secrets but I can always go back to enjoy them whenever I please.

Today, on Sunday, it was a splendid day of sunshine that warmed the land and brought eminent happiness to all of those who basked under its rays. I went out with a friend to see if we could find some iced over waterfalls. Based on Wednesday I was pretty skeptical there would be anything good to see. Yet, getting outside is better than a day spent wallowing around the home so we ventured onward. The first stop was Amegaeri. There is a good chance I didn't spell that right. It wasn't frozen at all and that is probably because of the southern exposure it gets from the sun. Shucks. Still looked beautiful as usual. I love this one in rainy season.

IMG_9457_1-29 Waterfall Trip

A short way up the valley is another fall. This one was frozen a bit around the edges. It has the potential to freeze over in February. I still thought it looked nice. What waterfall am I not pleased with?

IMG_9469_1-29 Waterfall Trip

Some little ice teeth with roots.

IMG_9479_1-29 Waterfall Trip

Then after a drive through the hills and some windy roads, we came to the chief objective for the day. On Friday I did some searching and found a picture of the following waterfall from a few weeks back. It was frozen over so I knew it would be a success no matter what happened. We descended across the river and fought through plants and logs with great effort. From the parking area I saw people at the base of the falls taking pictures but had no idea how they got there. It seems that we might have taken the hard way to get there...

IMG_9493_1-29 Waterfall Trip

After much scrambling and a few nervous maneuvers, we got to the frozen basin of the fall. This is the kind of thing I love to see. Why is ice so beautiful? It made me miss some of the icicles that would form in Southern Illinois along the bluffs and rocky areas from melting snow. Those were always spectacular. Wish I could go back and shoot better pictures of them.

IMG_9501_1-29 Waterfall Trip

It's rather hard to see the small stream of water shooting down the middle of the fall. At the top of the fall water was shooting out in little streams from the pressure of the ice in the way. I enjoyed watching chunks of ice fall off and ricochet against its firm brethren.

IMG_9509_1-29 Waterfall Trip

Afterwards was miso ramen, followed by french fries at home for dinner. I was truly a happy man.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

It's January. Yeah Okay.

Yes I've messed around with my layout a lot recently. The template that I personally modified was riddled with bullet holes from my constant editing practice. Therefore, I just used a pre-made one and adjusted the settings from the browser. This will make my life easier in the long run as I'm not going to take the time to write a blog layout from scratch anytime soon.

It was nice today. It was hard to tell in the morning how nice it would be when I looked out the window. It just looked bright and gray. If I can pull back the curtain and see blue skies I know that I shouldn't waste away under my blanket with the hot carpet radiating me to death underneath. Well by the later morning it was looking like that might happen but I finally got myself in gear. I even managed to make buttermilk pancakes (too many) for brunch. I halved the recipe but used one too many eggs so the hotcakes were a tad eggy. No problem. Still good. By the time I really decided to get myself outside it was already about 1:30PM. That is late for this time of year as the light dwindles much faster with the mountains obstructing the horizon.

I motored over to the west to check out an area I've had on my mind a year or so. The last time I tried to go there I didn't write down any map information and thought things would be clear when I arrived. That was not the case and I couldn't explore much on that day. This time I remembered to make a crude map and write down names of things so I had points of reference. Sometimes that isn't good enough when you get up on some roads that split off and aren't clearly marked where they go to. I came to a fork and wasn't sure where to go until I spotted a faded old sign made of wood. The lettering was near gone but enough to see that it read 登山入口 which means mountain trail entrance. That was some great luck. The road winded up past old farm houses and decaying fields of winter lettuce. It suddenly dead ended and had to get out of the car to check the signage. Sure enough the mountain trail was marked in decrepit old signs almost impossible to read. I doubt anyone hardly goes to that spot so it doesn't matter.

It was a bit troublesome, though, because it looked like the path was just some local farmer's foot trail that lead up to some orchards. But hey the sign pointed this way so I couldn't do anything else. The real reason of my trip was to scout out some potential waterfalls I had read about online. It rained a lot on Saturday so I thought it might be half decent to check out some falls today. I wasn't expecting it to be too great however. What I didn't want to do was climb all the way up a mountain. Especially after inhaling all those pancakes a few hours earlier. Yet, I told myself I better use that glucose or else. Not too far into the hike I headed off the main trail along a decently worn path toward the sound of water. From the road I had spotted part of this fall and seemed to be the one I read about online.

Too Typical

I couldn't say it was so great compared to others that I've seen but boy oh boy was this nice. Not the waterfall. It was nice because it had been a long time since I had been to a waterfall. It was great to visit the first one of the year. The sound of the splashing water. Rocks being hit with rushing currents. This was just the inspiration I needed.

Off The Wall

The short walk up to this point had already got me sweating. I had to take off my fleece and go with just a t-shirt. I brought my winter coat in the car. How foolish I am to think I would ever need that on a warm January day hiking. Shame on being prepared! It was warm standing around the fall despite the water which acts as a natural air conditioner usually.

Flood Table

It really wasn't this part of the fall that intrigued me though. It actually was a much larger fall that had a few different levels much higher up. As I left the bottom of the fall back toward the main mountain trail I considered bushwhacking up along the fall to get to where I wanted. My greedy side was telling me to do it but my rationale side chimed in and told me, "You don't want to waste precious time trying paths you don't know. Better stick to the main trail and hope for a view point." I took the latter advice hoping the trail would come near the upper part of the fall.

If you are hiking mountain trails that start lower at, let's say 500 meters or so, you usually have to work your way through the Sugi (Japanese cypress) labyrinths. This aren't labyrinths so much as they are rows and rows of tall thin trees that look identical. Mentally sticking it out through the sugi labyrinths is challenging. That scenery can really make you want to turn back and give up. If you can make it out of the sugi doldrums there is usually better scenery ahead. But you might just get a mountain that sucks and you spent the day walking through scenery you could see off the side of any road. At about 600 meters I was having a mental battle of my own because I felt incredibly lazy. But I still wanted to see if I could get to that upper part of the fall. I pressed on.

Somewhere around the 900 meter mark, with a completely sweat soaked shirt, I heard the faint roar of water coming from a path that shot off the main trail. I stopped. I had another discussion with myself. I decided I would make a short jaunt off the main trail just to see what was out of my view. There was some sort of lightly worn path or so it seemed. The locals or someone for that matter go up in the mountains and usually cut down the sugi trees to thin them out. There are lots of little paths that go nowhere. In fact, sometimes it can be a little confusing where the main trail goes. It's necessary in these places to rely on the pieces of pink tape attached to trees and plants along the way. It would be easy to find yourself going the wrong way. Do you see where this is headed yet?

I didn't go that far along the path but enough that I couldn't see where I had entered it. I saw a stream that was running down to the left of me. I figured that was the stream where the waterfall was coming from. I was half tempted to climb down the slope and follow the stream. The effort seemed like it would greatly outweigh the reward of whatever I might find. I took a breath and turned around to go back to the main trail. At least I thought I was going back to the main trail. I noticed a blue band around a tree from when I had come the opposite direction as well as another metal stake with a red cap on top. I thought it was odd I hadn't noticed that before. A few seconds later the path headed downwards and I couldn't for the life of me remember I had come up hill. I had walked parallel along a slope. Had I taken a wrong turn? Everything looked familiar. That was until the path ended and I wasn't back at the main trail.

Uh oh.

For a moment my mind froze. Now that you are good and scared. I wasn't really THAT lost. I wasn't aimlessly walking around in the forest so it wasn't going to be too hard to find my way back somehow. That is precisely why earlier I didn't stray from the path. Things just looked too similar to remember the way back well enough. Granted I could have just worked my way down along that stream. It would have taken much longer and I was already feeling less than thrilled to continue up the mountain. So I turned around and headed back along the path I had just come down. Sure enough I spotted the tree with the blue band around it and stopped to get my bearings. In my distraction of looking at the metal stake with the red cap on top, I had carelessly gone down the wrong path. The return path was just next to it and ran parallel along the slope. Feeling a bit more relieved I quickly went back to the main mountain trail and continued upwards.

The scenery failed to improve. The clouds were blotting out the sun. By the time I would have reached the top the sun would be making its way closer to the mountain line. I wasn't even sure how tall the mountain was. I thought it was around 1000 meters. I felt childish to give up and head back down. I was so close. A wasted trip all the way up the mountain. Getting back home before light had escaped the valleys seemed much better than anything else. The sugi labyrinths are dark and murky when the sun is dwindling. It feels opressive. Plus, the paths were covered in fallen branches with waxy wet sugi needles. I would need to be careful coming back down.

I made it back down in good time and back home well before it got dark outside. Didn't I say I had intended to find waterfalls anyway? I didn't mean to really climb up a mountain. I rationalized and felt better for giving up. I'll be back though because that fall needs to be explored up close and personal. I'll have to forge my own trail for that. But rest assured I'll start earlier in the day.

I leave you with this.

Flood Table Spout

PS Don't worry mom. I'm a writer so I have to make things sound more adventurous than they really are. But I wasn't really exaggerating anything either, haha.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Pizza and More Pizza

Maybe pizza is boring to read about. I don't really know but it's the most pressing issue in my life right now. Better that than something terrible. After making pizza last week I couldn't settle with only having enjoyed one really great pizza. I needed to eat more of it. All week the glorious images of melted cheese, red baked crust, and cooked toppings flickered in my mind. I like to make pizza on an evening when I don't have work the next day. This way I can make a catastrophic mess in the kitchen, eat like a glutton, and gorogoro (the onomatopoeia for being lazy in Japanese) the next day. So Friday night it had to be. Sometimes Saturday is the most ideal because I can prepare earlier in the afternoon whereas Friday requires prep time right after work. It can then get rather late by the time food comes to completion. I find myself snacking along the way and that surely had grave consequences for me last night.

I made pizza crusts on Thursday. 7 in total because I thought a friend was coming. My friend had to work and couldn't come. When I made the crust I was a little worried because the dough seemed a bit wet despite the fact I really did the minimum of water. For the sake of ease I didn't cut out cardboard circles to stack the dough between. I used wax paper. I was hoping the dough wouldn't be sticking to the wax paper come baking time. I sat at school on Friday more worried about sticky dough ruining my crusts than anything else. Such first world problems. When I got home my fears were just about right. It was sticky enough to cause the dough to stretch a little too much when being pulled off. I ruined one crust and salvaged the rest. If I do that wax paper again, which I'm thinking not, I'll heavily dust the dough in flour to make sure I don't have problems. If the dough sticks to the wax paper, plastic, or whatever else it can easily ruin the dough because the dough will stretch as it pulls off. Well I learned my lesson I think. I have committed this error before though. Let's not do it again Blaine.

Before I could get around to actually baking pizza I had a couple of things to do first. These days I have absolutely no problem trying to make anything I don't have. Even if the cost outweighs the practicality I feel great knowing I made what I truly wanted. Sometimes substitutes and leaving things out don't count. I was thinking of making pepperoni but apparently that is an expert level meat smoking technique. I might splurge on a bag of pepperoni from the Foreign Buyers Club.

I wanted to make a BBQ chicken pizza and this requires BBQ sauce. I didn't want a vinegary sauce like I have been making so I searched for Kansas style sauce recipe. This one looked good. It was easy to make but I wouldn't use onion in the recipe again. I left out lemon juice and steak sauce as I didn't have those. I don't think they were missed but who knows. While I was making the BBQ sauce I cooked a chicken breast in the oven. I then chopped/shredded it into smaller chunks for topping a pizza. This was also the perfect time to get the rest of the toppings ready.


The first pizza up was my classic favorite. I could eat this pizza every single time and never get tired of it. It's only missing my beloved pepperoni. It is the Monicals Delight copycat pizza with sausage, onion, green pepper, and mushroom. I remembered to get some legitimate button mushrooms because they taste much better for pizza compared to other varieties of Japanese mushrooms. I was very happy to have those for the pizza.


I used the best pizza crust for this first pizza because, as I just said, it's my favorite kind. If you remember from last week I mentioned the use of the grill. Last night I managed to snap a picture of what that looks like. I let it heat for about 45 minutes before baking the pizza. This was too long and the stone got too hot. Last time I did about 35 minutes because I was impatient but the pizza cooked just right. I would shorten it next time. The pizza cooked too much in the middle from how hot the stone was this time, a little too much carbon for my taste. The pizza looks a bit weird because it had curled up on the edges. That's good because I know it's cooking the way I want it to.

Baking Setup

I proceeded to taste my creation or perhaps work of art. Everything was unbelievably amazing. Just look at this. I mean LOOK at this.

Delight Pizza

While this fantastic pizza was baking I began preparing the BBQ chicken pizza so I could put it on immediately after the first was finished. To make the BBQ pizza I did about a 3/4 BBQ sauce and 1/4 pizza sauce blend. I then swirled them together as I sauced the entire layer of dough. At the end I sprinkled finely chopped red pepper flakes over the sauce to increase the heat factor and make it sweet and spicy BBQ chicken!


Then on goes the baked chicken and cheese. In the future I will try to season the chicken to give it even more flavor but the sauce was where the flavor was supposed to come from.


The BBQ chicken pizza baked better than my first one because the heat had evened out more. It looked beautiful when I pulled it off the stone. It was even better as I chomped that with my incisors and let the flavors radiate onto my taste buds. So sweet, spicy, and savory.

BBQ Chicken Pizza

I was stuffing my face full of some of the best I've had in ages. All the while drinking copious amounts of Coke. True pizza night style. As I had several uncooked crusts left and some toppings, I decided to make one more pizza that I could eat for lunch the following day. I made a veggie pizza which is very similar to the Delight minus sausage and with tomatoes added. This shape looks a bit wonky but that is the joy of homemade pizza! I had to test a few pieces before I wrapped the rest in foil for storage.

Veggie Pizza

That was a bad idea however. I ate WAY TOO MUCH. Plus the carbonation in the pop was really giving my esophagus and stomach the feeling like someone was grabbing it and trying to squeeze everything out backwards. It didn't help that I drank more pop because it tasted so good. This compounded the problem. I thought for once in my life I actually might throw up from gorging on my wonderful pizza. Well luckily I finally passed several massive burps that brought my state back down to the green level of safety. No problem after that. I still have pizza crust and sauce chilling in the fridge. I wonder what I should make for dinner tonight....


Sunday, January 15, 2012

Congratulations to Me

Oh how I love Sundays when we have class. There was only one class and it wasn't so bad. Recently the students have found the joys of making mechanical pencil guns with the springs. They wouldn't stop shooting each other with pieces of eraser. A girl even shot at me as I was helping a student but they are just looking for a reaction so it's best to respond as if their actions were petty skin cells shedding off the body. There was a lecture in the afternoon which I actually enjoyed. Usually the Japanese is understandable for awhile during lectures but I soon grow tired and stop trying to understand. The man who came told us about a natural cleaner people can make with yeast, soy beans, yogurt, sugar, and water. Supposedly it's great for getting rid of bad smells and cleans many things well without harmful chemicals. We all got 20oz of the concoction at the end. I might try to make my own with the directions we received. But to test the effectiveness I filled my bathtub up and dumped a few ounces in. I'm going to see how well it helps clean the rest of the tub and lid. For some reason I want to get the tub cleaned despite the fact I probably won't even use it. I think I'll hand wash some blankets and pillows in there so that might be good enough reason in itself.

I spent most of the day thinking about making pizza. I was happy that I restrained myself from using the dough last night. I knew it was for the best. When things don't work out the way I want I'm usually of the mindset to at least try again. This is more than true for pizza. As soon as I arrived home I broke open my new box of charcoal and got the fire chimney ready. I wonder how I'm contributing to rain forest devastation with the charcoal I buy. It says its from Indonesia and I'm suspicious of that. At least I thought about it, right? I looked up the word grill tonight and found that its usage appears prior to the word barbecue. Grill is defined as cooking over metal grates whereas barbecue is meat suspended above a pit of coals. British English has greatly confused the matter. Ask a New Zealander what a grill is and they will think it's a metal hot plate. I understand grill came from griddle but just use that word then. Everyone seems to be confused about grill and barbecue. Where do I even begin to explain anymore?

After getting the coals hot I dumped them out, put the grate on, and then laid my baking stone on top. I left the lid off for about 10 minutes to keep the coals highly oxygenated and then closed it up to make things very hot inside. I waited about 1 hour for the stone to heat. A fire chimney worth of coals is probably good for several pizzas. I was still a bit unsure how well it would work. I've cooked pizza on a gas grill but that has more consistent heating. But I figured the charcoal would do just as well. With the remaining onion and sausage from last night I dressed the final pizza dough and slid it on the grill. I baked for about 7 minutes, giving it a slight spin somewhere in the middle to help it cook more evenly with hot spots on underneath the stone. It smelled wonderful as it was cooking. I'm sure if anyone smelled it they would have wondered where such savory smells were coming from with great earnest but they would never know.

Sausage and Onion Pizza

Well that looks just as good as last night but watch the video below for the real verdict on all this madness!

This might be my best and favorite pizza ever. It's truly the replica I always wanted to make!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Long Time No See Thin Crust

With all the bread baking that has been going on, I have had pizza on my mind again. I don't think it ever has gone away though. It just lies resting for when my spurts of inspiration come. Since I have a baking stone for my oven I thought I would try making a thin crust pizza. I haven't made one for well over 2 years now I think. The last time was the final winter break of my college days. I hardly remember how those turned out. I was wearing a blue sweater that day. The pictures reminded me of that.

In theory my oven can get very hot. I'm not sure the reality of what this temperature means. It says over 600 degrees but I'm still skeptical. The biggest problem is that the oven wasn't designed with the kind of baking I have in mind. I make do and I'm still happy most of the time. So the stone gave me the inspiration to go ahead and try a thin crust out. Lots of heat is needed to crisp the crust properly. I think that is the most hit or miss aspect. Might have some to do with the dough as well. I went back to my archives and pulled out the dough recipe for thin crust. I never really made this correctly in the past. It was always too chewy and tough. I made sure to make it right this time and I was quite pleased.


I made three crusts on Friday and left them in the fridge overnight. This is how they did it back at my good old job. The thickness is probably off but I'll get that over time. Pepperoni is nonexistent here it seems and I wanted meat this time around so I made some Italian sausage. The spices are simple. Fennel, salt, black pepper, and whatever else you feel like. The fennel really gives it that sausage smell and taste. I made six patties. One used for pizza and the others I froze.


The rest of the ingredients are typical. I usually make pizzas with green pepper and onion because I like the combination and it's the most readily available ingredients. I hate not having mozzarella but I have found a cheese that I prefer for pizza making. Other generic melting cooking type cheeses have a strange taste and smell. Plus, the waxy coating to prevent clumping looks gross after cooking when the food has cooled for a few minutes. The kind I get is superior in taste and cooking ability. If over baked it can get a bad taste but ever since using it, it's hard to use another brand.

Prebake Pizaa

When putting together these pizzas I have many nostalgic memories ranging from diagrams of a strip club drawn in corn meal in the kitchen at the pizza restaurant to feeding my friends my pizza failures and successes. I feel happy when I make things. So into the oven the pizza went. About 8 minutes later a nice looking pie emerged.

Classic Thin Crust - Monicals Style

So good.

It didn't crisp up on the bottom though. That was a bit disappointing to say the least. I saved one dough for tomorrow. I'm going to put the baking stone on my grill and get the heat cranked to hades level. This will probably work great. I believe I wanted to see if my oven was capable which it kind of is. Still, not good enough for exceptional level pizza. Oh smokey Joe don't let me down.

Overall a great success today. But why do I have to work tomorrow? And parents will be there. And it's the second grade class. And those kids are good for nothi............

Monday, January 9, 2012


The final semester of the school year starts tomorrow. There is sure to be a riveting opening ceremony. Yeah, not likely. We will get to sing the school song which I'm always too far away from the words to follow along properly. I should go copy it down for future reference. The last time I was singing the English teacher was startled. Not sure if it was my angelic voice or the fact I was reading the Japanese. Probably both.

Before all the antics of the last term get into full swing I had a three day weekend to emotionally prepare myself. Saturday I acquired some hinges and clamps for my future silk screen. I did a test setup with an old wooden frame. Just like I envisioned! Great. I hope I don't split the screen when I attach the hinges.


I didn't find everything I wanted so I went home and got on Amazon. The deliver driver by now is getting to know me really well. I ordered some transparencies and a 500 watt halogen lamp and they arrived today. On the 14th my other screen printing materials will be shipped so I'm eagerly waiting for that.

Christy sent me a lovely bag of goodies that contained jello packets so I made a delightful fruit salad with oranges, kiwi, banana, and grapes. I ate this whole thing in one sitting because I knew if I put it away I would eat it sooner than later.

Jello Fruit Salad

Perhaps you have seen my latest bread creation. I made ciabatta Saturday night but I failed. You wouldn't know that from looking at the picture. The picture looks down right beautiful. I didn't even think my oven was capable.


So how did I fail? This was a dense loaf. It didn't have hardly any holes that ciabatta is known for. I pretty much expected that from the onset of making it. I just thought I might get lucky somehow. This is my first bread failure so far. Well, I can't live knowing I didn't make it correctly so I have some new mixture in the refrigerator for tomorrow or the following day. I'm going to make it right if I have to eat 10 loaves of this. On a side note the bread was still good. I loved looking at it. I just want those holes! Next time I hope I can proclaim, "holey smokes that was good."

I also watched a movie with some friends, gave my floors an abrasive scrubbing, and hammered kanji into my lobes. I also busted out the kerosene heater that has been lurking in my closet. I thought it was broken this whole time. The lighter on it needs replacing but I'm not sure why I didn't check it before. I used a match to get it lit and I have been enjoying the soothing warmth all evening. A welcomed change from the a/c unit that blows heat out. I think I'll try this out for a month and see what my costs for using kerosene are.

Get your head down!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Sunny Afternoon, Check

A clock in the middle of nowhere is one of the most comforting feelings.

IMG_9208 1-6-2012

I wanted to check out a little mountain park area this afternoon while I had some time off and the sun was out. Unfortunately there was more snow on the road than expected. My tires have hardly any tread, I mean for snow conditions. I decided it was safer to turn back and drive elsewhere. This time of year isn't that great for exploring in the mountain areas. There are too many sketchy roads that are either wet or unpaved. I'm glad to have a brain. So I drove some safer roads and came across some new things.

IMG_9210 1-6-2012

Some quite curious pieces of wood and moss. I've never seen things like this before. There was a whole garden of them hanging out. Kind of intriguing.

IMG_9215 1-6-2012

This used to be the old tunnel access into the northern part of this area. It wasn't until about 15 or 20 years ago that a much newer and larger tunnel was opened. Most of the places around here have remained much more isolated than one might imagine. You can still feel that well regardless of the newer infrastructure.

IMG_9223 1-6-2012

I didn't even know they dad delinquents up in the mountains. And it's terrible what they wrote, bad boys and kill. So chilling. That must have taken a lot of courage to graffiti on that tunnel wall. I commend whoever it was.


Back down the mountain and up a road nobody uses lies this little shack.

The Shack

There is an interesting garbage dump next door full of metal and old objects. I've been here once before. What was most surprising was the man out front today. I was a bit startled when I came around the corner. Hey, that's just mannequin. I would like to go inside but suspicious locales such as this are questionable. Take another closer look at that mannequin.

Oh My...

Red lipstick and malignant skin lesions on the neck. Just what kind of dreadful place is it? Scary.

IMG_9266 1-6-2012

How many more years till the sun burns off all that hydrogen? I'm glad I won't live to see an ice age. But wait a second....

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Besides the Bread Outlook

I can expect lofty goals for this new year. It isn't just because of the new year. It's just the timing.

Today I purchased the first batch of materials for screen printing. I hope they show up this weekend. Japan shipping companies are fast but sometimes that leaves me expecting too soon. The only materials left to acquire are the clamps and hinges I illustrated in the previous post and a halogen light for exposing photo emulsion. Trying to explain screen printing in Japanese is one of the hardest things I've ever tried. I still don't know how. It's easier just to tell people I like printing than explain how to properly design, expose, and print an image.

Aside from that I have been on a long Japanese study hiatus. I really let that get away from me. After a week of not studying the reviews slowly added up and I could never get it back under control. A few months later and some 4,000 reviews waiting in the queue has prompted me to take action. I tried to do some reviews but I forgot too many words to pick it back up where I left off. I have found this a great opportunity to start over through my Kanji in Context books. Additionally, my new goal is learn to write these hundreds of kanji characters I can read. I have tried this in the past and failed. This year I want to really do it. No more messing around. This will be an excruciating task. The following is a very rough estimate of how many kanji I can recognize, about 1,500. There are probably several hundred in there I forgot but can understand their general meaning when put together in compounds.








So my goal is to learn to write the very kanji I have avoided for so long. I always flip flop between wanting to give up and then reminding myself I had a goal to complete. I feel that I really need to do this for myself. So from the beginning I start. I actually know how to write a good amount already. It just takes my hand and brain a little bit to recall.

Put this on top of of my other hobbies and like I said , I really am on the hobbyist train to ruin. I hope this prevents memory loss later in life.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

On the Hobbyist Train to Ruin

It’s interesting how difficult it can be to find certain things in Japan. For example, I have had a long burning desire to screen print something since coming to Japan but it has been a frustrating search for materials. The cost of the materials, if found. to print a single t-shirt is probably ludicrous for all intents and purposes. However, there is much to be said for the process and the feel of doing it yourself. When I look at my wardrobe of t-shirts most of them are ones printed by me. It serves as a reminder of the years gone past. Was it really 5 years ago I made that Resident Evil merchant shirt? I can’t say I’ve made tons of shirts because it requires effort. This is a kind of effort mom described by saying I was slaving away out in the garage.

I’m gravely offended by the price of t-shirts you see. I saw some awesome bear shirts in Sapporo on my last day there. Those had massive ferocious blood thirsty bears in bold yellow and black colors. How sweet. Sure, businesses are in it for making a dollar and I probably can’t reproduce anything like that by myself but upwards of 25 dollars (might have been 30) for a t-shirt is a premium my wallet won’t open up for, no matter how great. Fashion annoys me anyway. Maybe I'm just jealous I lack any solid style. Come the end of the day and everyone in their get ups will devolve back into sweat pants and hooded sweatshirts as there is no longer anyone to impress. If that is the nature of our being why does there seem to be such a priority put on fashion? Oh its just consumerism as everything else.

So I believe I have found the things I need to start screen printing again. When searching for screen printing materials I get lots of webpages for shops that do printing. There is also a rather prevalent mini printing kit but I want tools like I would use back home. It just wouldn't do. I want to work with the tools that will lead to improvement. Oh I don't even want to think about the money I will spend to get started. My hobbies aren't always cheap. I just have to rationalize by telling myself its the same as several dinners out or buying some new clothes which works out well because I don't do either very often. Great for me!

I spent most of the day contemplating what I will need to make some nice prints. I could do single color prints but I won't limit myself. I'm going to go for the kill with my first t-shirt. In order to do so I'm going to need to construct a nice hinge/clamp system for my screen. As I have no idea where to get proper screen printing clamps I'll just make something up of my own. My idea is to attach door hinges directly to my screen. Then I will clamp the portion unattached to the screen down to a board. Take a look below.


This way I can quickly detach the screen and wash it. So one side of the hinge is screwed in while the other is not. I think this will work great. I need a hinge system for lining up my art work. That is the most difficult part of multiple color prints. It's maddening.

I have several random print ideas that have been floating in my mind for awhile. I've mostly put them off because of the technical skill involved. I can't let my skill get too rusty and I'm dying to create something I can wear. Here is just a sample of what I'm aiming to make. It's always good to create samples and dream of what the outcome might be. It usually never looks quite like I envision in the sample but usually does just fine.


I love those bees. I lifted the bee from an 8bit music album CD cover several years back. It has eaten at my mind ever since. It needs to be born on a shirt. I hope this winter we see that happen.

Monday, January 2, 2012

The Forecast is a 100% Chance of Bread This Year

After an enjoyable winter break skiing, I have made it home to take up where I left off. I'll get around to a marginal update about my winter break journeys but for now this is about baking. It was nice today and I could have gone outside to explore. However, my cookbook was calling out from being neglected over the past few weeks. I opened her up and set to my preparation for the next bread, challah.

Challah is a bread with Jewish origin. According to the cookbook it was traditionally made to make use of leftover eggs before the sabbath. The pictures of it sure looked tasty. The recipe looked very easy as well. Anything with a 15 minute mix is good in my mind. Speaking of that I was going to make a ciabatta poolish for tomorrow. Maybe I'll just make that on Wednesday. Anyway, it was one of the easier breads I have made so far. I don't think I've really messed up any of the breads yet. The mixing was quick and I kneaded the dough for about 10 minutes. I've found that it really does require a good length of time to develop the gluten properly. I was never doing that before I started using this cookbook. The books make me feel like I'm really good at something I'm just an amateur at.

After 2 hours of fermentation I braided the loaf and egg washed it. I should have made the braids longer. Yet, I kind of like how big and bulky it turned out. This is right before going in the oven. Just by looks you could tell it was going to be great.

Challah Prebake

After 40 minutes in the oven my loaf came out in all its glory.

Finished Challah Loaf

I was grinning as I pulled it from the oven. I was laughing because I was so happy. Oh to be happy about a simple loaf of bread. I must be without a care in the world.

Challah Crumb

The crumb is thick and delicious. I could eat this bread everyday. I wish I had someone to share with. Alas my stomach is the only one who will benefit from my labor. Maybe my fat too.

Challah Kid

My sweet challah baby resting in my tender arms. This loaf is huge. Don't let the pictures fool you. Like a cannibal I shall consume my child. Good thing it's just flour and water. A tad morbid there. I just love baking bread. I have the rest of my life to learn too. Oh the joy.