Thursday, April 28, 2016

Wabi Sabi


Have you heard of it?  

Pared down to its barest essence, wabi-sabi is the Japanese art of finding beauty in imperfection and profundity in nature, of accepting the natural cycle of growth, decay, and death. It's simple, slow, and uncluttered-and it reveres authenticity above all.

I had heard the term used over the last couple of years.  I didn't know all that much about it until I studied the subject (and oh so many others) while I was laid up with my broken foot last year.

I really like the idea of utilizing the concept of wabi-sabi in my home.  To me, it means a focus on minimalism (certainly reducing clutter) and focusing on those items that are essential to living and their aesthetic value.  The focus should be on items made by your own hand (or at the very least, someone else's).  Items show great use and are repaired rather than replaced.

In this day and age, it is difficult and cost prohibitive to have your home and every item in it handmade, but I can strive for that ideal anyway.

It all starts with the building

When we were searching for our home in Hawaii, I had the concept of wabi-sabi in my mind.  This is not a bad idea for anyone looking for a home here as they are all unique and somewhat patched together.  If your ideal is a perfectly sterile manufactured home, you better bring a lot of money and patience with you as you search for that home.  I certainly didn't see any.

I wanted a home that felt hand made. Certainly our home was built very similarly to all homes built in the late 30's:  it is single-walled and square.  It doesn't really stand out, but these old homes were built with redwood and there were no pre-fabricated pieces.  A crew of men put it together by hand board by board.  Certainly it has been patched over the years and it shows it's wear.  I try not to judge it, rather accept it for what it is.

The kitchen feels wabi-sabi to me as it was built for a very short person (which I am not).  The cabinets and counters are all hand made.  Inside the cabinets, you can see a layer or two of old paint (deep red and hospital green).

Recently, I was able to source some Japanese sudare bamboo blinds directly from Japan via The lovely thing about many Japanese items, is that they are still hand made.  These blind are lovely and perfectly fit our living room windows.  They are sun faded and well used, but they are sound and function perfectly.  They block much of the afternoon sun while still allowing airflow -- much better than regular curtains.

An earlier version of this book, if I recall correctly, is what resonated most with me:

Maybe I'll swing by the library after work one of these days and see what they have to check out on the subject.  I would enjoy a refresher.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Headspace Update

Actually, it's not much of an update.  It's been a little while since I've meditated.  I need to come up with a plan to get back on the wagon.  I've been discussing it and reading a bit on the internet.  I have found some kindred spirits that are equally challenged, so I am going to assume that this is a common stop on the meditation road.

Here's a blog post that I found relevant:

Here's what resonated with me in that blog post:

  • I, too, meditate in bed.  Our house is small, as is Wakako's, and meditating in any other room just feels uncomfortable to me.
  • I like that the very first thing she does in her day is meditate.  What would happen if I devoted my first ten minutes of every day to this practice?  No worries about forgetting or trying to slip it into some other part of my busy day.
  • She committed to meditating every day for 100 days.  She was also committed to not beating herself up if she missed a day...or three.
  • She kept an open mind and didn't let any preconceived notions about meditating or it's results limit her.
Another interesting conversation occurred in text form, where I listened to a friend express my same frustrations about the some (or nearly all) of the "packs" in Headspace.  I still really like (and recommend) the product, but many of the packs go into visualization, which for now, just don't seem to resonate with me.  Now, it may be that is exactly the point and I should persevere through them, but I think at this point, I need to stay focused on developing my habit of meditating.  I can focus on different types of meditation later.

So I think I will follow my friend's suggestions and stick with the pro-packs for now (less talk and visualization) and see if that works for me.  Just after I made that decision, I received a canned email from Headspace with advice to go back to the pro-packs after doing one of the other subject packs.  

Hmm, great minds think alike or what?

Thursday, April 21, 2016

What's on my Needles

After several months of not knitting, I've once again taken up the needles and started (and finished) some projects.  Having moved to such a warm, humid environment, I figured my knitting would be relegated to household items and the occasional gift.  Who needs warm things in 80 degree weather?  Well, it turns out, I do.

While there are only one or two "sweater days" here (when the temps drop into the 60's in the morning), one can be a little chilly when the temps drop into the 70's.  People say your blood thins when you acclimate to Hawaii and your tolerance of temperature changes decreases.

I suspect that people in warm environments have less brown fat, which could account for this inability to warm up.

Anyway, I find myself knitting scarves and shawls, which come in handy when in an air-conditioned room or in the wee morning hours and the temperature is a nippy 60 degrees.

Here is my current project:

It's an infinity scarf made from Purl Soho's Line Weight wool/linen yarn.

Knitting keeps my hands and brain engaged while I watch tv (and hopefully food out of my mouth).

I'm glad to be knitting again.  I go in spurts and phases, but I have been knitting steadily since I taught myself when I was 22.

The internet has greatly expanded access to yarns, patterns, and tutorials on technique.  Virtually anything is available now whereas in the pre-internet days, you had to check the yellow pages every time you visited a new town to see if there were any yarn shops.  If you didn't have any nearby, you could mail order via a catalog from a few sources, but that was about it.  I can remember ordering a booklet that listed yarn shops all over the country since the only other way you could get that sort of information was word of mouth or ads in knitting magazines.

That was the main reason I took up hand spinning yarn in the early 90's as so few types of yarns were available.  But that is all in the past -- thank god for the internet.

One site that most knitters go to regularly is
Some describe this website as the Facebook of Knitting.  Since I don't Facebook,  I'm not sure the comparison is accurate, but there you have it.  It's a social media site, for sure, but it also provides access to thousands of patterns, often with links to free downloads or instant purchase.  Yarn shops are also represented and there are the usual bulletin boards.

If I'm looking for a pattern, it's often where I'll go first.

Another great site for projects is  This is the knitting shop, Purl Soho's site of all sorts of free knitting, crochet, and sewing patterns.  I love their style and over the years I have made many of their projects.  They provide easy links to the supplies from their shop (which has a brick and mortar store in NYC and an online presence as well, shipping out of their warehouse in CA).  I find this super convenient, as often I just want to be able to purchase the yarn and start knitting and they will always hook you up.  If you sew, embroider, knit, or crochet, check them out.

Well, enough about knitting for now.  I'll post semi-regularly about what I'm knitting, just because.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Book Recommendation: The Young World by Chris Weitz

I just started a new book called, The Young World, by Chris Weitz.  It's my favorite genre, young adult dystopian novels.  It looks like it's going to be a series as the second book is listed on the author's website.

The story takes place in New York City after a disease has killed off all adults and all young children, leaving the teenagers to fend for themselves.  I'm not sure I want to say more than that in case you want to read the books.

I will say that the narrative bounces back between two main characters:  Jefferson and Donna.  I am enjoying the writing and the storyline and am curious to see where it leads.


Thursday, April 14, 2016

So, How does this happen?

Just another reason why I am in a perpetual state of confusion:

Last fall, I was cleaning the lenses on my favorite glasses, when the little silicone pad came off the left nose piece.  This had happened before, and I knew to be more careful, but off it came and it disappeared.  I tore the living room apart on at least two occasions looking for it.  I even vacuumed and then tore through the vacuum cleaner bag, CSI style looking for that nose piece.

All to no avail.

It took me months of internet searching to find a distributer who was willing to mail me a replacement set of nose pads.  They arrived today.

I replaced the pads and am thrilled to have my most comfortable glasses back in rotation.

I think you can probably guess what happened next.

Actually, I predicted it, too.  As I replaced the nose pad, I thought to myself, "now the universe has permission to make it reappear".

Ten minutes ago, Larry came up from downstairs holding something in his palm.  I looked at it, then at him.  "It's my left nose pad.  Where was it"?

He found it at the bottom of the stairs, in the corner, with some other debris.

I lost that damn notepad in October.

There it is, right under the letter "T".  Now I have two sets of replacements.  And if you wear Paulo Philipe glasses, I can tell you where to get replacement parts.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

PBS and Other Things

Call the Midwife is back on PBS and the first episode is available for streaming.  It's Season 5 and 1961 in the East End.  I still enjoy the show, but I miss Chummy.  What a glorious character -- unexpected things always occurred when she was in a scene.  It might even be worth watching those earlier episodes again just to watch her.

Granchester is also on with Season 2.  You may have missed this one and it's worth a watch.  I've seen Season 1 is available on Apple TV, and after a quick google, I see it is also on Amazon and available for streaming directly on  A murder master with a vicar.  Very enjoyable.

We just finished up the 13th episode of American Odyssey.  Worth a watch, if you're looking through Netflix and need to start something.  Reminds me of all of the conspiracy movies like Day of the Condor and The Manchurian Candidate. If you like the first episode, then you'll probably like the series.

Also available now is Season 4 (I think) of House of Cards.  This is been out for at least a month, but I haven't had a chance to sit down and start it.  Hopefully Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright will be up to their devious selves.

We also recently finished all 90 episodes of Person of Interest (through Season 4).  I believe I read season 5 would be out on broadcast tv soon, which is good, as there were cliffhangers at the end of season 4.  Again, if you like the first couple of episodes, you will at least enjoy the first couple of seasons.  I enjoyed the characters.

And finally, I'm watching Rosemary and Thyme.  An enjoyable 90's British detective series with gardening mysteries thrown in.  Easy on the eyes and brain.  I'm not sure it has the staying power for me, but the two main characters are enjoyable to watch.  Light on character development, I'd say.

What are you streaming these days?  Anything interesting?

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Paribus - a new way to save money


Have you heard of it yet?

That's a link to join.  Paribus links to your email -- the one that you use for purchases and constantly scans the web to look for price drops after you have made purchases.

One of the biggest sellers, Amazon, is constantly changing their prices.

Recently, I purchased a Nespresso machine.  A week after I made the purchase, Paribus informed me that the price on Amazon had dropped by $22 and I got a refund directly from Amazon.

It is all completely passive once you sign up.  You don't have to do anything else.

Yesterday, I ordered a couple of scarves from Nordstrom.  Today, when I logged into Paribus (to get that link) I saw that it was monitoring those purchases for price drops as well.

What's the catch?  Not much of one.  Paribus will bill you for 25% of whatever refunds you receive.  That means I paid them just over four bucks for my $22 refund.  That means a net of $18 in my pocket with zero effort.

You can download the Paribus app directly from the iTunes (and probably Android) store, but you can sign up online as well.  No need to ever revisit the page or the app, as far as I can tell.

Let me know if you use the app and like it.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Local Birds

I love to watch birds.  All wildlife, really, but birds are some of the most accessible.

One of my favorites is the Kolea, also known as the pacific golden plover.  Anyway, he's a local and fun to watch.  His expression is of bewilderment, as if to say, "what are you doing here", which is what I imagine him saying to all of the introduced species of birds, only they don't understand what he is saying because they don't speak the local language.

Here's a picture:

He's pretty funny looking with those long legs when standing on your neighbor's rain gutter.  They like to hang out on lawns, too.  I'm waiting to see their feathers change during mating season.  They are rather quiet, calm birds.

We also see nene -- in town.  They hang out by Reed's bay and beg for food.  They'r endangered and protected, so leave them alone.  

Recently a German tourist was prosecuted for killing a nene with his golf club.  He said his wife was terrified of geese and it approached them in a menacing fashion.  That doesn't explain why he felt the need to drive over it with his golf cart was well.  He received an $11,000 fine and one year's probation.  He was quoted in the paper as not understanding what all the fuss was about over killing a goose.  Please behave better than that.  Karma will reward you.

From time to time we also see the native hawk, io, flying up high.  They are buff colored and the sun makes their wings glow.  We almost always see them in pairs.

On the west side of Hawaii, they are trying to reintroduce the native Hawaiian crow, Corvus Hawaiiensus, which has been extinct in the wild for a number of years.  

Pretty ordinary looking crows, but I wish them well.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

If you come over...

Please do not sit on the couch.  A gecko ran in when the front door was open and went under the couch somewhere and we don't want to squish it.

Thank you for your understanding.