Attention knitters of the world! Or of, um, here.

I love winter, I really do. Summer makes me sedentary, sucks every last bit of energy from me but winter is precious. I spent a single, misguided year of college in Massachusetts and that winter really rubbed off on me. I visited a few noder-types up there a few winters ago, and walking through the new snow from the T station to their place is a memory that's firmly lodged in my head. The Xanax I took for the bus ride didn't hurt the memory formation process one bit.

I love winter. But what I need is somethin' to keep me warm in it, and winter, at least to me, calls for the special and the handmade. I can do many artsy things, but knitting ain't one of 'em. I used to have a grandma who'd make me things, but with the arthritis and...yeah.

What I'd like (for christmas, if you will) is a matching knit scarf and hat in olive green and dark grey stripes of undetermined thickness. The scarf should be wide and long (you know, a guy scarf) and the hat should fit me with enough room at the end to fold it up. Measurements can be supplied.

And also: I'll pay you, and pay you good. I want this to be my present to myself, and I'm all for splurging, particularly to friends. And I'll make you something, too, though what I can't rightly say. I'll think of something.

Drop me a message if you're up for it. My warm, cozy head'll thank you for it.

I attended a wedding today. It’s scary, watching a friend get married and knowing he’s exactly your age. It’s at once joyous and solemn and incredibly thought-provoking. It marks the beginning of life for two people together - "in sickness and strength, for better or worse... ". Those words as spoken bear weight far greater than most people realize, and yet to the ear sounds as the sweetest thing one could ever hope to hear. With those words you vow to give and do everything you possibly can towards cherishing, and caring for, another person.

With those words you pledge your life.

Whei Jie and Fabia, though you both may never read this, wherever you are, I wish you two all the best.

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So here's the latest way I've confused my host family: it was after dinner and my host mother had set out a plate of grapes for dessert. The grapes that my family eats are extremely small and somewhat sour, reminiscent of blueberries in size and taste, but my family tells me that American-style supersized grapes are sold this side of the pond too. So anyway, my host father was popping grapes, chewing them for a few seconds, and then plucking the grape skins out of his mouth and setting them on his plate. I just figured he was fussy about his grapes. For my part, I ate them skin and all, what I had assumed was the normal way.

My host father looked in confusion between me, my empty plate, and the bits of grape vine left behind from the grapes I'd just plucked. Then he asked with total incredulity, "You eat grape skins?"

"Uh... yeah. Why, is that strange?"

"I didn't even know they were edible!"

"Oh, yeah, they're nice. I like them."

Which is true, I do like grape skins. They add a crisp texture to the taste.

"Do all Americans eat grape skins?"

"Well, not all, but generally yeah, Americans eat the skins too. It would probably be considered a little rude to take the skin out of your mouth and set it on your plate."

My host father and host sister, all the while eyeing me with suspicion, then tried this crazy barbarian custom themselves. They judged it "really weird" and continued the way they had before with their civilized, unskinned grapes. I shrugged.

Wait, now that I think about it, do the Japanese shrug? I can't remember ever having seen a Japanese person shrug to communicate feelings of "eh, whatever." Maybe my host family thought I was starting to develop a shoulder tick on account of my barbarian grapeskin-eating habits.

Germany had absolutely nothing on this country for strange surprises. Every time I accustom myself to one layer of differences between Japan and home, another layer surfaces. It's intricate and alternately amusing or frustrating, depending on how stressed I am.

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