Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 in review

Is this for me, or for you? WHO KNOWS. In any case, here you go: a tremendous but tremendously fragmented year.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

merry Christmas from the style factory

The jury is sadly still out on whether I am going to get Christmas cards out before Christmas. Still, at least now I have a card to send.

Ugh sorry for the lack of text but I am not feeling very smart right now.


Sunday, December 4, 2011

Merry Christmas from the fluffiest of folk

i.e. Sparkle and Rosie the Shih Tzus. 

My grandma requested me to make her a Christmas card featuring her dogs. I thought it would be nice to brush up on my acrylic painting skills, so I did this painting Friday and Saturday (though I started the sketch right after Thanksgiving, eep.)

A few process photos after the break -- it actually went together so fast that I didn't really have time to take a ton of photos. 

Friday, December 2, 2011

Mycenaean Holiday inspirations: Fun times were had by all

First things first; I have a design up on Threadless to be scored for the "Dysfunctional Families" design challenge. Rather mysteriously I decided the thing to do would be to make a Greek mythology joke -- not, I would argue, a particularly obscure one, but still, probably less accessible overall than a joke about, say, the Kardashians. Whatever.

Here is my design! And here is a link where you can go give it a nice score on Threadless! (You need a Threadless account to vote.)

Now, let me justify this business.

My roommate took a "Women in the Ancient World" or somesuch class when we were juniors or seniors, and she would come home positively crowing about the murders of Medea or Clytemnestra (not that we have macabre senses of humor or anything.) I always particularly enjoyed seeing Agamemnon get his comeuppance, because he always seemed particularly like an ass (particularly after that television miniseries we watched in high school World Lit with Rufus Sewell as Agamemnon, cough). Not only that, there were enough murders in that story to make a truly ridiculous graphic. (Agamemnon kills his daughter Iphigenia in a ritual sacrifice for favorable winds when he's taking his army to attack Troy; his wife, Clytemnestra, avenges her daughter by strangling/stabbing him in the bath; and finally, their son, Orestes, kills her to pay back his father's death.)

The idea of having all four pagan folk together murdering each other in a chain reaction, decked out in anachronistic holiday swag (though you'll notice that the tree has a lightning bolt on top and dolphins and bulls hung from the branches) struck me as quite humorous.

The nice thing about pulling a story from a culture with a strong tradition of graphic representation is that it makes deciding how to draw it much simpler. I wanted to mimic the sort of figures one sees drawn on large Greek vessels, of which the Boston MFA has a large and admirable (if occasionally risque) collection.

I started poking around in their online archives for ideas. (I used links to their websites for the images, so hopefully they don't break in the near future. :P) (Whoops -- editorial note -- the links on the MFA items lead back to the slideshow these pieces are found in, not the specific piece. It's not a very long slideshow though so you should be able to find them.)

This one is a bowl for mixing wine and water from Athens (called a bell krater, I think?), ca. 470 B.C. The figures represented are Diana and Achteon; the myth goes that he saw her bathing, so she turned him into a stag to be ripped apart by his own dogs. I more or less copied her dress for Iphigenia (minus the skin of a -- cat? -- around her neck.) Click through on this link to look at a bigger picture of Diana's hands -- they're very gracefully shaped, and I tried (and perhaps failed) to do justice to that in my design.

Monday, November 28, 2011

if you want to hop on over to my "things to buy" page. . .

You'll find that I've added "Bostonia" notecards to my shop! A Christmas present for someone perhaps?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Bostonia watercolor: the very long process post

ETA: Crap, I knew I forgot something. You can now purchase this painting as a print, laptop skin, iPhone skin, or iPhone case on Society6.

So here -- after about five days of work -- I present to you, the Bostonia watercolor process post! It is very long, which hopefully will convey to you how annoying the linework was to complete.

Thursday, November 24, 2011


This is the first year my brother and sister-in-law are hosting Thanksgiving. My brother doesn't like turkey, so we're having prime rib.

Happy Thanksgiving, guys.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

a fallish outfit

The truth is, I haven't been dressing up too much since I've been home, despite ample opportunity (movies, plays, excursions out to eat, etc.) I fear I have been afflicted by at-home-slackification, as well as overcast sky exhaustion.

Last night I felt silly so I put on heels for my own amusement. Et voilà, my first . . . er. . . fashion illustration!

a small preview of what I've been working on

Certainly not done yet . . . but the linework is almost finished.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Lavender davender spavender

Loess Hills Lavender Farm

If you are in the Harrison County area and interested in buying singles or packs of my lavender cards (without shipping! whoo!), they will be available at the Loess Hills Lavender Farm Christmas Open House in two weeks. The Lavender Farm shop will be open on Sunday, December 4th, from 1 pm to 6 pm; Monday, December 5th, to Saturday, December 10th, from 11 am to 7 pm, and Sunday, December 11th, from 1 pm to 6 pm.

I personally will be probably be running over to grab some thick lavender lotion -- my almond lotion bar is almost gone, and my hands need some help.

view into the lavender valley

Saturday, November 19, 2011

questionable packing practices

At right: The box I received today from Blick Art Supplies.

At left: The half-pan of yellow Winsor-Newton watercolor that said box contained.


Friday, November 18, 2011

first two orders of cards shipped. also, Pegapup Christmas card ideas. also, pie. also, bread.


This is the second order. Actually I shipped my third order today but I didn't take a celebratory picture because it needed to be rush shipped.

Here we come to my Pegapup Christmas card (or holiday card if you like, as I don't really feel inclined to put writing on the inside) ideas. I have two. This is the first one.

If this looks like a card you would like to buy and send, please leave a comment to that effect on this post. They would be more expensive ($3.50 apiece, or 5 for $16) than my regular cards because of the cutting involved. In the next day or two I will also be posting my other Pegapup Christmas card idea.

new Society6 products

Hopefully I have a better blog post coming later today, but first:

I spent some time today resizing some of my Society6 artwork for the other product they sell -- i.e. laptop skins, iPhone skins, t-shirts, and hoodies. I'm hoping that in a couple days I'll have all of them reformatted.

I though two pieces in particular looked really nice -- the "My Dear" laptop skin and the "For the Heart-Hungry" iPhone skin. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

a brief and serious diversion.

Please consider emailing or calling your Congressperson today to protest the IP-Protect Act and SOPA. They are ostensibly to protect copyright holders from piracy, but they give large-scale Internet censorship powers to the entertainment industry. 

I encourage you to watch the video with more information and use the easy form to call or email your representatives here or to sign the petition here.

Reasons I care:

1. This bill could be used to block access to social networking sites like Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter, making it harder for new startups to publicize themselves and make new connections;
2. This bill would cost about $47 million to implement (and our government just has SO MUCH SPARE CASH LYING AROUND THAT COULDN'T POSSIBLY BE USED FOR MORE IMPORTANT THINGS /sarcasm);
3. This bill could be used to deal out major punishments (like jail time) for minor infractions of copyright law (like using a copyrighted song in the background of a Youtube video);
4. This bill helps create an atmosphere of fear and repression of ideas on the U.S. Internet. 

That is not good. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

the recovered sketchbook! (MUCH CAPSLOCK ENSUES)

So. At this point I have told this story multiple times, because it's so unbelievable and awesome as to merit repeated enthusiasm. What happened is this: The first few days of the Fontainebleau program -- back in July -- were spent in Paris. We toured around with our instructors and TAs to design and architecturally significant locations and learned stuff about the history, urbanism, development, and (occasionally) the politics of Paris. We ate many sandwich-filled picnics and saw many glorious sites. We also had free evenings and a free afternoon with which to explore.

ALL OF THIS WAS GREAT, EXCEPT that the day before we were going to leave to go to Fontainebleau to start the project part of the program, I LOST MY SKETCHBOOK.


Understandably (I hope) I was PROFOUNDLY UPSET. I tore through the hostel looking for it; it had been in my bag up until that point and I had no idea where I had lost it.

I finally resigned myself to the fact that my glorious sketchbook was gone, bought another Moleskin, and grumpily went about my business.

FAST-FORWARD: Last Saturday my Grandma called me. "I got a piece of mail that I think is yours."

"What?" (This didn't really surprise me, as we have the same first name and last name.)

"Yeah, it's some kind of journal."

"Oh?" (This is me thinking a medical journal or similar magazine, so not too excited yet.)

"Yeah, it's full of sketches and stuff."

"WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAT." (Much screaming commenced. Okay, that's a slight exaggeration. BUT I WAS SCREAMING WITH GLEE INSIDE.)

So: Three months after the fact, the staff of the Musée de Cluny had spent 7.10 Euro (so $10-$11) to MAIL THE SKETCHBOOK I HAD LEFT IN THE MUSEUM BACK TO ME.

If it's any indication of how thrilled I was, I mailed my thank-you note today. I am never that timely.

To the punchline! I have decided to scan and upload the best (well, most of) the sketches from said notebook for your viewing pleasure! AND HERE THEY ARE.

This is Tofuku-ji, a temple known for its rock gardens in Kyoto. It was on the east bank of Kamo River (same as my apartment and place of work), but a few miles south.

Monday, November 14, 2011

you have noticed: NOTECARDS (also, PEGAPUP!)

You may have noticed the new button at the top of the blog -- Things you can buy. Well, currently, "things" means "notecards." I am now selling notecards with my art on the front, each printed on bright white matte heavy cardstock or Bristol board with a white envelope. They come in packs of five cards for $10 or eleven cards for $20, plus shipping. So far, I have a mixed Iowa watercolor pack, a mixed black-and-white travel sketches pack, a Purple Up Over the Hills pack (the painting I did at the Loess Hills Lavender Farm), a The Only Way Out Is Up pack (the painting I did lying on my back at the Gleason-Hubbell nature area), and a A Few Reflections on an Elegant Curve pack (the print I made with my drawing of one of the roofs at Yoshida shrine in Kyoto.)

I spent today cutting, folding, and assembling cards. (Somewhat relieved that I didn't give away all of my architecture tools.)

There's one more pack that appeared today -- the PEGAPUP pack.

What is Pegapup, you ask?

Pegapup is a little doggie with wings I drew a few nights ago before bed. More or less he came about by way of, "Gee, wouldn't Stubby look cute with wings?"

This gave birth to more Pegapup cartoons depicting the slightly glamorized life and times of Stubby the Frequently Sleepy Dog as his winged alter-ego.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

the desk

Currently the hub of my existence.

top view of my desk with watercolors, computer, and so on

Saturday, November 12, 2011

pumpkin roll recipe


(adapted from the skeleton of the cinnamon roll recipe in the Williams-Sonoma Baking book.)
1 CUP milk. I used skim, but whole is nice too.
Heat up the milk in the microwave (45 seconds - 1 minute). Add a dollop of sugar; stir until it dissolves. Sprinkle over the top:
7 TEASPOONS of dried yeast.
Let that sit until bubbly (10-20 minutes).
While the yeast is doing its thing, dump
1 12-oz CAN of pumpkin
in a bowl. Add
4 eggs
1/2 CUP of white sugar
1/2 CUP of brown sugar
4 TEASPOONS (give or take a bit, can add some more cinnamon) pumpkin pie spice
3/4 CUP butter, melted
STIR. Add yeast mixture. STIR MORE.
This is where it gets a bit tricky, because I always just add flour until it gets to be the right consistency — I don’t pay attention too much to how many cups. So, I would advise that you add AT LEAST 
7 CUPS of white flour. Mix/knead this into the dough, then start adding flour one cup at a time and keep kneading until the dough is firm but not stiff. I used about 10 cups eventually I think. 
Put dough in a greased bowl and let rise for 2-3 hours, until soft and puffy.
For the filling:
1/2 CUP butter, softened (22 seconds or so in the microwave and stir)
and… about. . . 1/2 CUP brown sugar?
Split the dough in half. Roll it into a large flat rectangle on your workspace, something like 20” x 12” (exact dimensions don’t matter, it just needs to be longer than it is wide and big and flat.) Spread 1/4 cup of the softened butter across the rectangle, then sprinkle with as much brown sugar as seems appropriate to you. I suspect I actually used about 1/2 cup for EACH half to make sure it was nice and evenly coated, but I’m not sure. Roll up the rectangle and cut into between 12-20 rolls, depending on big you like your rolls. Separate the rolls on the pan if you like crisp sides, and put them closer together if you like soft sides. Let them rise in the pan for another 20 minutes to an hour, ideally whilst the oven is heating up to 350 degrees F. Bake for 20 minutes (this was just about perfect on all three pans I made.)
We put about 1/2 tablespoon of commercially ready dipping caramel on each one while it was hot; it melted down and made delicious sticky topping. If I come across a good recipe for soft caramel sauce, I’ll share it.
This recipe makes 24-40 rolls, depending on into how many pieces you cut each of the two long rolls you make.


Sorry, my life is not lending itself to long blog posts at the moment.

One thing that has been characteristic of my time at home: FALL FOOD.

I find the dreary weather and shortened days overwhelmingly depressing on occasion (though I do find the angled light, clarifying coldness, and spectacular leaves quite pleasant), which means I must DO SEASONAL BATTLE. And, given my personality, I do seasonal battle with a cutting board, a frying pan, a mixing bowl, and an oven. (That's a rather. . . incomplete list.)

I've been baking and cooking quite a bit, and while I didn't photograph either the squash spice bread or the squash foccacia (best way to get rid of a vegetable you hate: bake it into bread), many of my other experiments I have indeed captured digitally.

Firstly we have the staple of my existence: the noodle boodle. This is a soothing reminder of independent days in Kyoto, as well as on of the only ways in which I regularly and willingly consume vegetables. (Cough.) The recipe is some variation on: one onion, chopped; one glove of garlic, chopped; one slice of ginger, chopped; carrots, julienned; and some mixture of whatever else we have -- mushrooms, celery, cabbage, sometimes chicken or pork. This is fried until the onions are brown; I add a plastic cup of water and probably a quarter-cup of Kikkoman teriyaki sauce, a package of ramen and seasoning, and cook for 5-10 minutes until all is pleasantly mushy. Usually at this point I crack an egg over the whole business and stir so that it cooks up in little sweet bits.

One thing I have decided is this: If I'm going to be home for a while, I'm going to be home -- which means I want to enjoy being Iowa, specifically, as a place apart from other places, with its own specific place-things and charms and also FOODS. I have used this as a justification to buy local foods such as this GOAT CHEESE from the Honey Creek Creamery. It had (because I ATE IT ALL) cranberries and horseradish. It was delicious.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

last paint day of the year


Yesterday, we went to one of the regular paint day attendees' house near Crescent. She lives on top of a hill with a good view across a lot of rolling fields, a little church in the distance, and some timber backing the property. Perhaps more unusually for southwestern Iowa, she has a small Hindu temple on her property, which unfortunately for us was still in the process of being re-shingled when we were there.

After touring around a bit, I decided I was cold and preferred to paint inside with her rather companionable Maltese. (Sadly I discovered I was unable to scratch her tummy and paint at the same time -- apparently my motor coordination is not quite as advanced as I had thought.) There were a number of floor-to-ceiling windows in the living room and dining room, but they framed views of: 1. the timber 2. a field 3. another field. Which are all pleasant, but also all things I have already painted in the last two months. SO. She also had a number of interesting objects and sculptures scattered about, so I sat down in front of a large tile wall sculpture of Ganesh, the elephant-headed god, and started drawing.

For once I actually kept track of my progress -- largely because this is one of the more intensive paintings I've done of late; the drawing itself took me about two hours, and the painting another two or three.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Dragons de Cluny: a new (technically Parisian) print

So -- you may remember this sketch (though frankly I cannot remember whether I posted it here or not): a sketch of a medieval column capital from the National Museum of the Middle Ages (also known as the Musée de Cluny) in Paris, composed toward the beginning of the Fontainebleau experience. 

I decided that this was the first candidate of this batch of European sketches for print-ification for Society6. So! What is interesting about this column? DRAGONS are what is interesting about this column.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Society6 prints!

sometimes my heart feels like it could eat the whole world
I've mentioned this before, but I'd like to remind you -- I'm now selling prints of my artwork on Society6.

If you have a Society6 account and like my work, please promote it!

If you have a desire for often travel-themed prints, buy one!

If, however, you don't currently have the money for such things (and I can appreciate that problem), consider liking a print on Facebook, tweeting about it, or liking it on your Stumbleupon account. I very much would appreciate the publicity.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

the soggy life and times: a very late and somewhat sparse post from Kyoto

Was looking back at posts I meant to publish previously, and lo and behold, I came upon one written before I apparently became too busy and grumpy in Kyoto to blog more, entitled the "soggy life and times." I deleted the bits about flooding, as I feel most people probably know what's up regarding the Missouri River at this point, but I did pick out some fun pictures.

First: some work! I made a large 1:30 scale model of a portion of a courtyard in a temple near Nagoya which my office was redesigning to have better circulation and better views onto their garden.

It was an endeavor.

It was uber uber humid in Kyoto . . . I kept all my food in my fridge because I was nervous about the possibility of bugs, and after unintentionally leaving a package of soba out for a night it did this:

Friday, October 7, 2011

recent doings and a few thoughts on Fontainebleau

Looking out the window of our room at the MIJE hostel in Paris.

So, first, things I've been doing since being home.

1. Cleaning.

I had composed a massive post to explain the flooding situation while I was in Kyoto, but I never got around to posting it. The short version is: Due to a series of stupid oversights and foolish mistakes by the Army Corps of Engineers, the Missouri River flooded massively this summer. My parents (and many of my friends) were expected to be under 2-4 feet of water; luckily, due to a somewhat dry summer and incomplete information, this did not turn out to be the case.

What did turn out to be the case was that my parents effectively moved out of their house and even out of the basement of the new clinic to avoid the (potential) nightmare of sifting through sludge again. They also pretty well surrounded the new clinic with a wall of sandbags.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

a post for a friend. . .

So, alas, I have not updated this blog for approximately an age and a half. Forgive me! It is of course when I actually have things to blog about that I don't have time to do so.


In any case, I will be putting up some entries with more soon. . . I hope.

In the mean time, here's a lovely postcard sent to me from my friend Joan from Barcelona:

I very much must get these watercolor postcards.

Also in the line of Joan: a shoutout. This grass on my 6-mile walk today made me think of you and our landscaping project:

For comparison's sake, some of the renderings we produced in Fontainebleau.

Now, back to trying to finish A Good Woman, as well as trying and failing to focus. :P

Monday, May 30, 2011

Nijou-jou and Nanzen-ji: preliminary thoughts

Making a shabby attempt at keeping the blog updated. So, here are some pictures with no thoughts yet attached.

From Nijou Castle (or Nijou-jou :D):


[EDITED TO ADD: Hey yo! Sorry about the VAST DELAY. But at least it's going up, right? There are some . . . ah. . . condensations toward the end of this post, made with an eye to not having it sit in cyberlimbo until the end of time. The original date on this post was 4/10/11, but I'm changing it to now to make it show up where peeps will notice it.]

The saga continues. . . . (now, with more pictures!)

DAY DEUX dawned. It dawned later than I had planned.

Damn snoring lady.

First, breakfast; I had walked by a grocery store the day before, "Tesco's Express." They had a seemingly unlimited supply of almond-filled croissants (mmmm) and, of course, 500-650 mL bottles of funny-tasting diet Coke. (In terms of the tastiness of their diet Coke, I have found Spain > U.S. > France > U.K.)
You can see my second day's route here as I slowly wended my way across London. I walked alongside the Buckingham Palace grounds on Grosvenor (!) Place. (My grandmother's maiden name is Grosvenor -- her family actually has [minimal] records going back to about 1350. John Grosvenor, my great-times-something grandfather, came to North America around 1660. NOW YOU KNOW.) I was kind of hoping to see the Palace from afar -- forgetting of course that it is sort of a government building and also a private residence -- in any case, it was surrounded by 10-foot stone walls with an array of six-inch-long spikes jutting out of the top.

Some famous streets -- yes, it amuses my immature mind that "Drury Lane" is just another street for most Londoners. (I also was on Fleet Street, but it was already dark, so I didn't want to stop and take a picture.)

My mom and I have a standing souvenir agreement -- wherever I travel, I will attempt to bring her back a Christmas ornament or object that can easily be repurposed into a Christmas ornament. So far she has a lacy laser-cut metal ornament from Mount Vernon (Dad and I went there on a high school trip to D.C.)(and now it's also a "flood ornament," because all the laser-cut flourishes have little lacy borders of rust from being submerged in mucky water), a yellow charm with a tiny white dog from the Shinto shrine at Kotohira, a charm with a small white peak embroidered on the front from the Shinto shrine on top of Mount Fuji, a metal bookmark from Ellis Island showing the Statue of Liberty, a supercheap metal keychain of the Eiffel Tower from Paris, and now -- this little dude, purchased the Buckingham Palace Mews gift shop, where I stopped as I made my somewhat confused way across London. I think I'll call him Percy. Apparently Christmas ornaments are a normal souvenir in England, because there were tons of excellently garish ones -- stuffed sequined crowns, blown-glass carriages, teddy bears in royal robes, etc.

Monday, May 23, 2011

you know what's important

I'll tell you what's important: Food.

Generally I am existing on a diet of noodles, things on top of noodles, and Pepsi "Nex Zero." (Marilyn, if you're reading this, I'm sorry.) I've drunk one liter of milk a week so far and gone through about four packages of frozen dumplings (which I suspect are mainly soy protein and cabbage with a slight flavoring of pork.)

I have broken this pattern on occasion:

These cookies are basically Teddy Grahams, except that instead of being in the shapes of diminutive bears they're in the shapes of various antique Japanese coins. They are the optimum tastiness: Tasty enough that I thoroughly enjoy them, but not so tasty that I want to eat the whole bag in one sitting (which is a problem I generally have whenever I a box with "butter" somewhere on the label.)

I think I mentioned these guys. They are frybreads, made from the dough that I attempted to steam, and filled with sugar, which then melts and caramelizes. Damn good. Probably better than I don't have time to make them on a daily rather than weekly basis.

My birthday celebration was rather, um, low-key. I got a maple doughnut and a cup of creme brulee flavored ice cream (deceptively labeled "vanilla pudding" when the primary flavor was the burnt sugar.)

This was this weekend's effort -- last week I got some Japanese sweet potatoes and discovered that I don't care for them by their lonesome, so I bought some regular potatoes (at $2 for four tiny potatoes! Yowza!), diced them really finely with some carrot, onion, and cabbage, added three eggs, about a cup of flour, some pepper and some basil to the pot, and fried up what I am calling "mixed vegetable latkes." They were pretty damn tasty, if I do say so myself.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Heian kimono

This is a collage that I've working on all week of the women in the Aoi Matsuri parade wearing Heian-era kimono. I was trying to emphasize the patterns and colors in each garment. . . not sure how successful I was. Anyhoo! Here you go.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

the first week

of work.

Well, 'twas interesting. In a good way! Mostly. Except for the damn toilet. I thought it would get easier to use with practice -- and it sort of has -- my squatting muscles are definitely stronger. However, THERE ARE STILL THE OBVIOUS ISSUES.

I finished the paper tiles on the roof of the model of the Nagoya temple. . . well, sort of. I finished the tiles on the larger model. Unfortunately there was an error in communication between me and my boss on the larger site model with buildings at a smaller scale, so I have to do some more twiddly work to finish it. (Dammit.)

Andrew, the other guy who works in my office, looked at this model and said, "Wow, they're so neat!" Which was a first. . . I don't think anyone's ever accused me of making neat models before. Of course, this has to be balanced against the fact that this office still does a fare amount of hand drafting, which I suck at (though I'm relatively confident I can do it if they ask, so long as they don't mind it taking me a really. long. time.)

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

the downside

of being taken out by your boss for an awesome Japanese dinner is not getting home until 11:30 PM. (And only two hours of that was eating -- I was at the office from 9:15 AM to 9:15 PM, and I was probably actively working for 10 hours of that time. Damn paper roof tiles.) This morning I pretty much had to choose between cooking lunch and showering, and cooking lunch lost.

I didn't eat out much last time, and I probably won't eat much this time, but an overview of things I ate (can't remember it all; this was sort of like tapas, where the izakaya employees/owner brought out little plates of lots of things and we shared):

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

the good, the bad, and the ugly

First: The good! There's quite a bit of it.

Today was my first day of work at Design 1st, a (very) small firm (I think it's just the principal and maybe one or two other people) that mainly restores machiya, traditional Japanese townhouses, in Kyoto. The "office" -- actually a small machiya which is currently in the process of being renovated -- is maybe a mile and a half south of my apartment.

The house itself is pretty tiny. The practical person in me cocks a brow at the amount of work it will take to make it really habitable (in a non-camping and non-Mom-living-in-the-old-church kind of way -- flood reference for the win), but the historian and the architect are still going, "SQUEE SQUEE SQUEE SQUEE SQUEEEEEEEEEE!" It's such a neat little structure.

I think my boss said in an email that this house was 200 years old. It's at least a hundred years old, that's for sure. It's probably about twice as big as my studio apartment in total floorspace, and constructed of dark pine beams (stained or aged, I do not know), plaster, and wood paneling. I drew a little picture (see below) to help understand the layout, but basically it's two living rooms, one in front of the other, elevated about 1-2 feet off the ground on platforms. The front one has a screened-in bay that faces the street. There is a ground-level hallway running alongside the two rooms that is two stories tall. In the back of this hallway is where the kitchen area used to be; there's a skylight/smoke opening and the remains of a brick stove. This hallway is sort of the "mud room" area -- the floor is concrete-ish and dirty, you can wear shoes and there are storage cabinets there -- while the two living rooms are the nice areas, where you're supposed to take your shoes off. There's ladder in the hallway that leads to a little platform which opens onto a loft over the back living room (the roof slants down so that there wouldn't be room for a second story in the front room.) The hallway continues straight back to the tiny courtyard with one tree in it, where the plumbing services are -- toilet and what I think was probably a shower, each in its own cubicle. I didn't put this in my drawing, but I think the space between the two cubicles and the back living room (which looks out onto the courtyard through a glass sliding door) had a big dry sink (or wet sink, not sure) in it. (edited to add: drawings not to scale. sort of, but not really.)

Monday, May 9, 2011

Ginkaku-ji and further plans

I did indeed haul my lazy butt over to Ginkaku-ji. It cost 500 yen to get in. I think I might go back (perhaps!) because it's sooooo close and quite pretty and I forgot the memory card to my camera so basically I just have these two EXTREMELY SPEEDY sketches that I'm not super happy with. (There were colors, man! colors!)

This is the main and most famous building there. "Ginkaku-ji" means "the Silver Pavilion," though it is not, actually, covered in silver, though apparently that was originally the plan. It's supposed to be a counterpart to Kinkaku-ji ("the Golden Pavilion"), which I saw last time I was in Japan. Both were built as private residences, this one in the 1480s-90s, and later given over to orders of Buddhist monks to turn into temples. I kept picturing whatever brilliant old Japanese architect who designed this place spinning in his grave, yelling, "I spent MONTHS getting the curve of that roof JUST RIGHT, and now you cavalierly butcher it in your drawing? FOR SHAME!"

Ah well.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

music, silence, food

Some things.

On Saturday I walked to Uniqlo (not the closest Uniqlo, turns out -- damn you, Google Maps, for lying to me) to buy some socks, as I have put holes in three pairs since I've gotten here. I went ahead and got two more t-shirts while I was there, since it looks like I will be doing more dressed-down work (cleaning, etc.) and less dressed-up work than I had at first predicted.

I know some folk think Uniqlo's stuff is bland and boring, but you guys: When you are a size FREAKING ENORMOUS by most Japanese standards, and Uniqlo carries most of the basics in sizes up to XL (an American XL, more or less) -- that is a godsend. I love Uniqlo. Also their socks fit unusually well -- they go up just far enough to avoid slipping over the heel and have a good seam at the toe (and come in cute patterns.) I bought three pairs last time I was here, but alas! one half of each pair disappeared into the ether, and I was left with one red, one blue, and one gray striped sock.

On the way park I walked through a large park with a mysterious structure inside a large wall that I could not identify. Upon further investigation, I realized that it was the Kyoto Imperial Palace. Durrrr. The current building only dates from 1855 (only!), though there has been an imperial palace near this location since the late 700s. Two recent emperors were crowned here (though not the most recent), but it isn't currently used as a residence. You have to request permission to go inside, but I just walked about and took some picture of the wall and the roofs and stuff. (There's also a bunch of normal park stuff on the grounds, like a baseball diamond and tennis courts.)

VERDANT FOLIAGE on the roof!

Friday, May 6, 2011

more from the food front

I just made decent bread dough without any sort of measuring device. I WIN. (It's for steamed buns, as I have no oven.) (Yes, they're going to be cabbage, carrot, and onion filled. It's cheap!)


A kitty!

This is the window in my apartment that looks out on a cement block wall about 1.5' foot away. Still, in Tokyo I only ever got lizards outside my window (and in Madrid nothing at all.)

A little under two hours left in The Return of the King, and then I will have completed my eleven-hour LOTR rewatching spree. Wheeee.