Sunday, October 31, 2010

Journey to the end of the night

We celebrated Halloween by playing tag all over San Francisco with hundreds of strangers and Emiko, a Japanese friend from Yasu’s school. A game of tag may not sound scary of spooky enough for Halloween, but I felt my adrenaline rushing through my veins a few times tonight.
At the start we got a blue ribbon, a yellow ribbon and a player’s manifest. The rules as explained in the manifest were pretty straightforward. Players wear blue ribbons around their arms and travel from checkpoint to checkpoint collecting stamps and signatures. Chasers wear yellow ribbons and try to tag the players before they arrive at the finish line. A tagged player hands over their blue ribbon to the chaser and turns into a chaser himself by donning his own yellow ribbon. We started with hundreds of players and less than ten chasers, but due to the chaser-zombie-effect the city was soon crawling with yellow-ribboned creeps. 
Suddenly the organizers gave the start sign and the crowd started screaming and running in all directions. Apparently, chasers had started tagging everyone around them and the number of chasers was already increasing exponentially. It was total chaos and hilarious, we were running, screaming and laughing at the same time. We quickly jumped on a street train (all buses and trains were safezones) where we could catch our breath and strategize. 
We visited five checkpoints successfully before we had to leave to catch our last train home. But we encountered several chasers along the way. One erroneously tagged me while I was in a safezone, but my startled scream scared her off. We had to run for our ‘life’ at one point during the game until we reached a safezone totally out of breath and with aching legs. We also found ourselves hiding behind cars and around corners to avoid being spotted by chasers. And some chasers were scarily energetic, two were running along our from bus stop to bus stop just to try and tag us while getting off.
It was a great event. We had a lot of fun, got a lot of exercise and got to experience San Francisco in a very different way. We only wished that they’d started earlier, so we could finish the game and join the party at the finish line. Oh well, maybe next year!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Ghost stories

On our way to the Asian Art Museum today I finally spotted some carved pumpkins on the street! In a slightly creepy alley though, but I guess that's only fitting to the holiday of Halloween. 
We went to the museum to get spooked by dramatic and haunting Japanese ghost tales performed by a woman and her husband's jazz band (including taiko drums and a koto). 
They were really good and the performance was fascinating and entertaining, but unfortunately for me not really scary. Yasu was really happy though. He really doesn't like scary movies and stories. 

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Virtual reality

Today we met up with Katherine and Kosuke, another ex-AEON teacher with a Japanese boyfriend in San Francisco! We met eachother online years ago, when she asked me some questions about AEON and stayed in touch a bit on facebook and today we met eachother in the flesh! I love it when something virtual turns into something physical.
Katherine is also an counseling psychology grad student like Yasu, but at another university, and Kosuke is learning English now and wants to go to grad school soon too. It was really fun to meet them and hang out with them, talk for hours and sample the many delicious fruits and vegetables on sale at the Ferry Plaza Farmer's Market.
If you're ever hungry and out of money, go to this farmer's market! We ate so many yummy samples and tried fruits we'd never seen before, some good and some weird. I ended up buying something called a pluot (mix between a plum and apricot), destined to be breakfast tomorrow.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Sleepy, forgetful and hungry

We've only been in the States for two months but today I already had my first procedure at an American hospital. I've had severe stomach pains for a while and regular tests, like on my blood and breath didn't find anything out of the ordinary, so they thought it would be a good idea to check out the inside of my stomach with a camera that they inserted through my mouth. Quite a scary idea, especially since I have a bad cold and have trouble breathing through my nose right now and I'm constantly coughing, but they assured me that would be no problem. Thankfully they put me under general anesthesia, so I was totally oblivious of the camera tube being stuffed down my throat, and I had no opportunity to panic.
After the procedure I was still woozy from the drugs and I only remember bits. Apparently, I told Yasu to take pictures of me in my hospital bed all tubed up, but I don't remember at all. It was nearly impossible to stay awake, no matter how hard I tried I kept falling back asleep so we ended up spending the whole afternoon at the hospital. And when I was awake I kept forgetting what happened, like continuously asking when they were going to start, and them telling me again and again it was already over. They didn't find anything scary (so far) and I hope the results of the biopsy will be useful. 

I wasn't allowed to drive or make any life decisions after we left, but I was allowed to shop and eat! My last meal had been the night before so I was really hungry, and even though we weren't supposed to eat out this month we allowed ourselves to make an exception today (at a cheap diner).
We had steak and eggs, which is a weird combination to us, but very normal here I think because I see it on the menu all the time. And even though we still think it's weird to eat steak with eggs and toast, we agreed that it was really good, especially when you're really hungry.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Sneak peek

I'm working on a new kind of product for eleventh monkey, here's a sneak peek. It's a lot of work, with tiny details that take long hours, but it's fun and I'm very excited about it.

I wish there were more hours in the day, or that I was so much faster at stuff than I currently am, or simply that I had the power to stop time and take 2-hour naps in between 2 minutes. If only...

Friday, October 15, 2010

Baking

Now that we have an actual oven, I thought I'd try some baking too. So far I've made carrot cake, chocolate chip muffins and pumpkin spice muffins.
They weren't bad, but not so great that I'm planning on making them again soon. I'm still learning and hope to get better soon. Next time, I'll try my hand at cupcakes.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Freeze

Making ice cubes isn't easy, the water keeps trying to escape.
Luckily our freezer is extremely fast and freezes any fugitives mid-escape.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

A special pillow

In Japan they have the yes-no pillow. On one side of the pillow it says “yes” on the other side it says “no”. Ladies can use it to show their men whether they’re in the mood or not. Before bed, he checks which side she has put up for the night and he knows what to expect.

As a wedding gift for our manager my coworkers suggested I make a very special yes-no pillow for her. One that fits her unique personality better than a conventional yes-no pillow. This is the “yes” side:

This is the “no” side, or rather the "no hell yes!" side:

Unfortunately, I couldn't make it to her wedding because it was on my last day in Japan and I was a little busy. But I hope my pillow was featured during her wedding night...

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Weird monkeys

Other monkeys I made when I was still in Japan are the Weirdos. Which have huge bulging eyes that make them look rather weird (hence the name), but still cute in my opinion.

They were mostly going-away-presents for my lovely coworkers. Obviously, I couldn’t leave them without leaving a bit of eleventh monkey with them.

On their backs a little reminder of who made these monkey badges for them, just in case they’ve forgotten all about me in a while.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Japan today, I was even imagining how it used to be prepping for classes. Wonder when this desire to go back to Japan will dissipate.

Sal the Monkey

A while back I organized a giveaway because I was about to sew my 11th monkey as 'eleventh monkey', and the giveaway winner got to choose the colors. Sal won and chose orange and green with blue buttons. And I can’t believe I still haven’t blogged the resulting monkey until now:

Honestly, I wasn’t sure about the color combination, but it turned out beautifully. And that’s exactly why it’s fun to let someone else chose the colors for a change: you get surprising results. I made the monkey when I was still in Japan, and ‘Sal the Monkey’ has been living with the ‘Sal the Human’ for a couple of months now and she’s having a blast, they even went on a trip together.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Mail from home

A care package I received from the Netherlands today contained this:
'Spanish' slippers to keep our feet warm (we don't need them now in this heatwave, but we will soon), Dutch towels (because the American towels are too weirdly measured), cleaning cloths and loads of Dutch cooking spices (for me to try in our fabulous kitchen). Oh, how fun it is to receive packages from home! Thanks Moem!

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Revamped

I’ve redone the pictures in my store. A new country, a new background. I really like how the colors of the felt stand out on a white background.

Brown, orange, white, red, purple & green Halloween skulls


I used to use a blue background, like with these four custom horses I finished last month. 

But Lily the Horse on this background didn’t really give me the result I wanted, which prompted the search for a new background. I really like the white!

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Observing while jumping

One of Yasu’s tasks for a take-home exam, was to observe an infant or child for 30 minutes and write about his findings. It’s for a human development class. So today we visited one of Yasu’s school friends, who was nice enough to let Yasu study her daughter. During his studies he jumped around a huge trampoline with her.
If Yasu hadn’t known anyone with a child, the professor suggested to go to a mall and ask parents if he could observe their child for half an hour. Ehm... That’s seem like a good plan to get the cops called on you, so Yasu was really happy he didn’t need to go that far.
Anyway, it was really fun, the girl was adorable, and I always love to see Yasu interact with children. Someday he is going to be such a great father to our children!

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Halloween candy

It’s October and that means it’s time for people to get ready for Halloween, here in the States at least. We don’t have this tradition at home, so it’s fun for me to see Halloween themed things pop up everywhere, like this trick-or-treat candy aisle I discovered at the grocery store today.
All the candy is dressed up in pretty and scary packages, and some things have even turned orange, like the stuffing in Oreos. And even though we have no plans for Halloween, that doesn't stop us from trying out costumes, like yesterday at Walgreens.
I’m hoping to see some carved pumpkins on the streets soon.

Appreciation

San Francisco is such a beautiful city. There are pretty buildings and interesting things everywhere.
It's been my favorite American city ever since I first visited it in 2004. I really have to start realizing and appreciating the fact that I live here now.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Doggies

With or without a full time job life is busy! But whatever I’m doing, be it the laundry or cooking dinner or sightseeing in San Francisco, my little eleventh monkey creatures never leave my mind. I feel like my head is bursting with ideas but I never have the time to do anything with them. But at least I found the time to make these new cuties.

Meet Aaron, Derek, Emily, Jennifer, Matthew and Penelope. Can anyone guess what inspired this group of names?

They’re a group of little colorful doggies looking for a new home. The have badge pins attached to the backs of their heads, so you can wear them on your jacket or bag.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass

Ever heard of Bluegrass? Well, I hadn't, but apparently it's a sub-genre of country music, and San Francisco hosts an annual festival in Golden Gate Park completely devoted to this kind of music, called Hardly Strictly Bluegrass. It's a free festival, so there was nothing stopping us from checking it out, even though we had never heard of any of the numerous bands performing there.
The festival site was huge with several stages, with country-themed names like the Rooster stage and the Banjo stage, and thousands of Bluegrass fans. The music was quite pleasant to listen to, but not really memorable to me. 
The atmosphere at the festival was really nice, lots of happy people, drinking alcohol (which isn't exactly legal in the States, but this park or festival was an exception), smoking pot (which is always illegal in the States, yet it seems more popular here than in Amsterdam), eating festival food (including cupcakes and teriyaki chicken), dancing enthusiastically and singing along.