Saturday, January 31, 2015

(I'm going to) slip!


(Apologies to those who are preparing for final, admission and board exams…"suberu" also means failing these exams)

I wanted to run yesterday, but the forecast was for snow, so I sat it out. (It didn't snow.) So I headed out this morning and after about two steps, I realized that the roads were frozen. I'm aiming for fitness, not fractures, so I headed back inside. The weather is supposed to be nice tomorrow, so we'll see what happens.

I'm trying to wrap my head around the anti-vaccination rhetoric. Any time you receive a medical intervention of any kind, there is a risk. Vaccination is one of the few honest-to-goodness victories of modern medicine. I can understand feeling that not all of them are necessary. If you need a reference, Japan has one of the shortest lists of required vaccines in the world. Mumps, for example, is not a required vaccine. However, measles is on the list. The Pumpkin Prince got his measles/ rubella booster this morning. Everyone else should get theirs too, if they haven't already.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

(Oops!) I did it again!

Mata yatchatta!

Got out of the house and walked/ jogged again! I got out of bed about half an hour later than I planned, but it was Sunday and the rest of the family was still asleep, so no big deal. I did a second day of week 1 of Couch to 5k. Now I'm sore. I didn't know until a couple days ago that you could get sore from running, but the Pumpkin Daddy (he who has finished a half marathon) says that it happens to him all the time. The last time I ran longer than a couple of minutes was in university. We'd run about 4 km and then do circuits of pushups and sit-ups and pull-ups and burpees and whatnot afterward, so I'd always thought it was the circuits.

I was looking over my own blog posts and I realized that I had a short "running/ walking" phase about 4 years ago. History repeating itself? If so, you will not see me on another animal for

I'm trying to decide what item of clothing to alter next. I think it will be my black wool coat that I bought last year to wear to the Pumpkin Daddy's grandmother's funeral. I bought it because I thought a 40something married woman shouldn't go to a funeral in a puffy down coat. The design is very plain and simple, and it fits at the shoulders, and the cuffs are not vented or buckled or anything of the sort, so it will be very straightforward and simple, nothing worthy of a blog post.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

I ran! (Oops!)

Hashitte shimatta!

This morning I did something unexpected (especially by myself).

I ran.

I've been doing planks and pushups about every other morning since the new year began. My posture has improved, and I have more energy. This got me thinking that maybe I should start doing something more for my body, and that that something was probably cardio. And the cheapest, simplest cardio is, of course, running and walking.

So I googled "Couch to 5K" and downloaded an interval timer app and got up at 5:30 and got into windproof gear that I probably bought when my name wasn't Pumpkin yet and slapped on some sunscreen and laced up my 3 year-old sneakers and went out the door.

And the interval timer app crashed, but I just switched to the stopwatch and timer function on my iPod and I did 8 intervals of 60 seconds jogging/ 90 minutes walking.

So, yaaay me!

(My legs are protesting, though. I didn't know you could get sore from running, especially from such a short distance.)

Monday, January 19, 2015

It's what's "in" in America!

Amerika de hayatte iru no ha kore!

My imaginary internet friend, whose beautiful daughter's pictures grace my dining area wall, asked me about this lady.  Apparently, she's really trending in the Americas right now. I decided to see what the fuss was all about, but since I'm in the midst of decluttering as I speak blog, I opted to sneak a trip to my local bookstore and flip through the book.

It was interesting and practical. The book was entirely text, telling you in simple language why having a clean room/ apartment/ house was a good idea and potentially life changing (you feel better about yourself and find the energy to do more, and that might change your life).

A lot of the stuff was about decluttering. If it doesn't make you happy and excited, you should chuck it. One interesting point she made was that you should declutter all at once (as opposed to, say, 15 minutes per day as recommended by other self-help gurus), and declutter by category (start with clothes, move on to books, etc). Makes sense. I've started decluttering sprees that lasted for 3 15 minute-sessions too many times.

Another interesting point she made was that you should imagine the life you want to live in your apartment/ house once it is clean. She described a client who spoke of a peaceful, tidy room where she would look forward to coming home to every night, and drink herb tea and do yoga. I tried to imagine my perfect fantasy life…everything is here already (nice husband, healthy and happy children, well, most of the time anyway, never mind) but one fantasy I have is that the house will always be ready for overnight visitors. A friend will call me and tell me she was in town with her family, could they come crash at my place? And I would say yes without so much as blinking. Right now, it's just that, a fantasy. The spare room is currently a disaster area of old books, CDs, toys in various stages of appreciation, and returned school assignments.

(I didn't buy the book, by the way. The point of the book was to limit the things in your house so that you will have less clutter :P)

So I set out to declutter my children's clothes. This was an easy task, especially when they were away at their grandma's. I just put everything that didn't fit anymore in the "chuck" pile. Then I picked out just the nicest and most expensive and least stained items and bagged them for hand-me-downs (the stretched out T-shirts and hole-y jeans were picked up by the Pumpkin City trash collection this morning).

I can see about 50% of the spare room floor now, up 40% from this weekend. We'll see if I can do better!

Monday, January 12, 2015

shortening sleeve length and taking in shoulder

Sode to kata wo tsumeru

I bought a blazer at Zara last winter, mostly because it was on sale. I bought a size Medium because the Small was too tight at the waist. The sleeves were too long, but this is a given for pretty much all off-the-rack jackets that I buy.

I wore the jacket to a work event, and during a bathroom break, I looked at myself in the mirror…and I looked like a normal 40-something year-old, except I was dressed like a girls' school student who'd inherited her uniform from an upperclassman she had a crush on, and the uniform was 2 sizes too big.

(I never actually did this, but I had a friend who did. She said it was normal for her junior high school.)

So I put the jacket away and vowed to shorten the sleeves and take in the shoulders, it and it hung in my closet for…about 8 months. (Yes, story of my life.)

It was part of my New Year Holiday to do list, and I finally got it done. Once I got going, it was pretty straightforward, if time-consuming. The procedure went like this:

1. Rip the lining from the jacket at the cuffs and bottom hem
2. Turn the jacket inside out
3. Rip the sleeves out at the armholes, remove batting and shoulder pads
4. Sketch new back side seams
5. Sketch new armhole seam on sleeve, apply interfacing where insufficient
6. Sew sleeves back at new armhole seams
7. Hand stitch batting and shoulder pads to new armhole
8. Shorten sleeve lining at (about) elbow)
9. Hand stitch lining to jacket at cuffs and bottom hem

To explain:

If you rip a sleeve away from the armhole and cut it open, it looks more or less like this. Depending on how loose or fitted the sleeve is, it might have darts or even an extra seam, but the basic premise is usually the same. For explanation purposes, I'm ignoring the darts and seams.
If you want to shorten the sleeve 4 cm, your new armhole seam needs to be 4 cm below the original armhole seam. So you sketch the new armhole seam with tailor's chalk. 

The new armhole seam needs to be parallel to the old seam. If you do this right, the new armhole seam will be a little bit shorter than the original seam.

I also wanted to take in the shoulders and sides. The new armhole seam would be 1 cm inside the old seam at the shoulder. The new side seam would be 1 cm inside the old seam at the bottom of the armhole, 2 cm inside at the waist, and meet the original side seam at the hem. I could only alter the back side seam, because the front side seam hit the vented flap pockets.

This adjustment would (in addition to improving the fit at the shoulder and sides) make the armhole a little smaller, and (hopefully) fit the new sleeve armhole seam. 
So here goes.

I ripped out the stitches holding the lining to the cuff and hem. Then, I ripped out the sleeve from the armhole.
I marked the new armhole seam with tailor's chalk. I also hand stitched along the new sew line (as thread marks), in case the chalk wore off, and also to let me see the new sew line even when I was working on the other side of the fabric. 
The new shoulder seam was only partially covered by interfacing. Curved seams like this need interfacing, to keep from stretching. 

So I added an interfacing "patch" to cover that part of the seam.

I trimmed the new seam allowance to about 1.5 cm (5/8 in. for my American friends) and sewed two rows of stitches by hand along the seam. I pulled the threads and pressed the sleeve shoulder to a shoulder shape, using a rolled-up towel to make the sleeve shape (because I'm too cheap to buy a sleeve ham.)

BTW, sleeve hams are called sleeve cakes (sode manjuu) in Japanese. 
I sketched a new armhole seam on the bodice. Taking in the shoulder of the blazer made the armhole lager, but taking in the sides of the blazer made the armhole a little bit smaller. I tried fitting the sleeve to the armhole, and it fit! (If it hadn't, I might have raised the side seam slightly, or re-sketched the armhole seam on the sleeve.) Then I re-stitched the armhole following the new seams, and trimmed the bodice armhole seam to match the sleeve armhole seam. 

This jacket had batting stitched to the sleeve side of the armhole. It was machine stitched to the seam allowance of just the sleeve piece, and there was no way I could recreate that. Still, the batting was adding a bit of needed shape to the shoulder. So I hand-stitched it to the sleeve seam allowance.
Then I hand-stitched the original shoulder pad just outside (seam allowance side) the shoulder seam. I stitched it so the edge of the shoulder pad was about 1 cm outside the shoulder seam. I made sure the stitching was slightly loose, because otherwise they would strain the shoulder pads when the jacket was turned right side out again.

Saturday, January 10, 2015



I finished taking in the shoulder and sleeves and sides of my Zara blazer (purchased last year at the local mall for half price) today. I think it's the best (of 3) blazer alteration I've done so far. It was easier than but about as time consuming as I thought it would be. Since my unlined chambray blazer sleeve alteration post has the most hits of all my blog posts, there's probably a need for a lined blazer alteration how-to, but I didn't really take that many photos of the process. Plus, my camera cable is still missing. We'll see how it goes.

So now I've done at least part of everything on my New Year Holiday to do list, except take the Pumpkin Prince and Princess ice skating. It's a three day weekend, so it might still happen.

Tomorrow is Dondo-yaki. There will be a ritual bonfire in the local park to burn all the New Year decorations. Eating things cooked by the flames is supposed to bring good health and fortune throughout the year. The Pumpkin Princess and her friend were planning to roast marshmallows in addition to the standard rice flour dough balls, and I suggested adding crackers and chocolate, s'mores style (I wanted to say Grahm crackers, but I already knew that no local supermarket carries them). I'm being the cool mom and taking two bars of chocolate and a box of 32 crackers, in case other kids want a piece of the action (the friend is supposed to bring the marshmallows).

Sunday, January 4, 2015

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Shourai no yume wa nani?

As a late Christmas present, I took the Pumpkin Princess clothes shopping. The four of us went to the mall. The Pumpkin Daddy and Prince went to the arcade to play some game involving ghost spirits and collector cards, and the Pumpkin Princess made a beeline to a little shop on the third floor that was full of trendy tween items.

When we got there, she pointed to a torso dressed in a red plaid flannel shirt (bit my tongue and did NOT say that she already had a plaid flannel shirt), acrylic long sleeved striped knit (static electricity nightmare), and denim shorts (at least it came with a cute belt). I tried my best not to cringe as I shelled out twice the amount I would have paid in Uniqlo for similar items. Welcome to the world of tween girl motherhood, I guess.

For the past week, she has worn this outfit or at least parts of it (the shirt and/ or knit with her Uniqlo jeans from last year, the shorts with her Minnie Mouse sweatshirt, etc). At least she's wearing and enjoying the stuff she chose.

I remember my mom couldn't (or was that wouldn't?) spend the money to dress me the way I felt I should be dressed when I was a child. This may or may not have led to a strange phase of overspending  on fashion that lasted about a decade (from when I was about 20 to when I was 30). It wasn't a bad thing, and I never bought what I couldn't afford. I look back at the things I bought back then (or sometimes I find them during a closet purge) and shake my head in disbelief. I hope the Pumpkin Princess will have a more balanced fashion experience.

Especially since she wants to be a fashion designer when she grows up. No comment.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Hope to continue our relationship this year

Kotoshi mo yorosihku onegaizhimasu

Technically, the Pumpkin Clan isn't allowed to wish anyone a happy new year because we're in mourning. The Pumpkin Daddy's grandmother passed away last spring at age 94. She was pretty much bedridden for the last couple of years, so it was all expected and now she's with her handsome husband whom I have never met but looks a lot like the Pumpkin Daddy in old pictures. 

We haven't done any traveling. The Pumpkin Daddy's family is in the next town and my family is three blocks away. I had delusions of cooking something for New Year's, but the only thing I made so far is ozoni (New Year's soup). 

As for my holiday resolutions, I cleaned the kitchen exhaust fan and filter. That made my arms sore for the next three days, which is why I didn't exercise every day. In retrospect, I should have done just squats or stretches or something. I binged on chips and alcohol NYE, but not the night before or the night before that, so that one averages out. I altered the Pumpkin Prince's comforter cover, but I haven't shown it to him yet. I ripped out part of the lining of the Zara blazer. I'll see what happens tonight. I've read something work-related every day except yesterday. I haven't read anything yet today, but I still have several more hours. 

I wanted to post pictures of the alterations, but I think I left my camera USB cable at work, so those will have to wait until later.