Doing good in the world

be kind

image via Pinterest


Did you know that nearly 870 million people do not have enough food to eat? Many more desperately need our help in one way or another. With growing housing costs, many can barely afford rent- let alone food and other basic necessities. I am forever thankful and grateful for the life my family and I live. For countless years, our family has supported our local thrift stores with donations- today for instance, we just took sets of flannel sheets and blankets to our local thrift store now that the weather is getting cooler. Last year, we bought a flock of geese for a family in need through Heifer International. The ways to help are endless. You can help with donating money to worthy causes,  give your time to someone who needs help, offer material and supplies. There are no shortage of ways to help others. Here are a few of my favorite organizations who are doing A LOT of good out there…

Burrito Boyz- In November, 2010, Michael & Mehrnaz Johnson started Burrito Boyz with their son Alec and his friend Luke.  Not only were they hoping to teach his son and friends not to take things for granted, they wanted to DO something to help others. After their first Sunday downtown serving 54 breakfast burritos and bottles of water, the group knew they had started something special.  After 3 full years without missing a Sunday, the Burrito Boyz, the Burrito Babes and a cast of volunteers from San Diego and visiting from around the country and world have served over 50,000 meals. For more information on how you can help, visit (link here).

Caterinas Club- For the last 10 years, Chef Bruno Serato and his team have provided 1,200 children a nutritionally balanced meal of pasta and vegetables and they deliver it to an estimated 75 residential motels in Anaheim, CA every day. To date, Serato has served 750,000 meals to those in need of food. For more information on how you can help, visit (link here).

Heifer International- Believes in “Passing on the Gift”
The nature of Heifer Intl. allows families to become the cycle of positive change; those who received Heifer gifts become donors and Pass on the Gift of possibilities and shared successes to others in the community. Needy families receive resources —such as livestock, seeds or training—and then pass on those gifts to other families in need in their community, allowing them to help others as they have been helped. For more information on how you can help, visit (link here).

Donor Choose- At the mission is simple- support teachers in bringing their students art, science, books, field trips and project backing. The best part? You can even search in your own city and support locally. For more information on how you can help, visit (link here).

Fall Squash salad with citrus vinaigrette

fall salad For this lovely Fall salad I used delicata squash- though kabocha or butternut would be great in it too. It is so simple to prepare. Be warned… you will love this salad!

What you will need:

Romaine lettuce

1 roasted delicata squash, d-seeded and chopped

½ cup pecans

½ cup raisins

1 tsp. cinnamon

3 tbsp. olive oil

1 small orange- juiced

1 tbsp. Apple cider vinegar

pepper to taste

I started off by roasting the delicata squash on a baking sheet- tossing the squash in a bowl with 1 tbsp. Olive oil and then placed the squash on the pan and sprinkled it with 1 tsp. Cinnamon. I roasted it for 30-40 minutes at 350 degrees.

Next, make the vinaigrette. Add 2 tbsp. Olive oil, orange juice, apple cider vinegar, and pepper to taste in small jar. Shake contents until mixed.

To assemble the salad, add the chopped romaine lettuce in a bowl and add pecans and raisins and roasted squash. Toss. Add the vinaigrette and do another toss.



San Diego Japanese Food Festival 2014

join us for a taste of japan

Held in Balboa Park


Yakitori being grilled


Ladies selling taiyaki




Taiyaki- red bean filled sweet dessert




Liv loves sushi (and Attack on Titan) :-)


Rillakuma had to come too


Gates to gardens


Local artisan


Aren’t these beautiful?


Karesansui (dry landscape) garden


New pavilion during expansion


This past weekend we visited San Diego’s Japanese Friendship Garden in Balboa Park for their annual Taste of Japan- a place to sample many of Japans “street foods”, common throughout Japan. We purchased many delicious food items. We enjoyed yakitori (grilled meats, organs-grilled over special coals from Japan), yakisoba (grilled noodles with veggies), sushi, taiyaki (red bean waffle cake shaped like a fish), and ended our eating adventures with shaved ice.

The Taste of Japan also featured local artisans like Tsuyosa Creations who recycles old kimono’s into beautiful bags, purses and pillows. Kyocera- known for their knife and kitchen tools were there for people to try out. Totally bamboo was here selling bamboo kitchenware and accessories and Sylvia Hwa was here selling Asian-inspired, hand-made cards, notebooks, and bags.

Singers performed traditional Japanese folk songs and they even had a Halloween costume contest for the little kids along with fun Halloween crafts.

The Friendship Garden is a great place to visit if you love Japanese culture, art and a quiet, serene place to visit. The strolling gardens offer beautiful specimens of pine tree, bonsai and more. I hear it’s the place to go to see the cherry trees blossom in the Spring.

They offer changing exhibits throughout the year that focus on Japanese culture and are currently expanding the gardens which will include a traditional tea house, a pavilion for three hundred patrons, and outdoor amphitheater. It’s my understanding that they will also offer classes in the traditional arts once they expansion is completed.

Fall pumpkin inspiration…

japanese inspired pumpkins

I love the Fall season. Cooler weather, changing leaves, shorter days and plenty of fun things to do- like decorating pumpkins! I bought these cute pumpkins and decided to paint them with Japanese motifs. I chose the cherry blossom and a textile design that frequents many Japanese fabrics. I used primer first on the pumpkins, then painted them. I think they turned out kawaii!

Teaching children Ikebana (Japanese flower arranging)

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The art of Ikebana (Japanese flower arranging) is one of my favorite classes to teach- after all, who doesn’t love flowers? This is always a favorite activity for the kids to do. Their excitement about flowers (especially for the girls) is really fun to see. The beauty of ikebana is it’s personal expression of the individual, yet is created for all to see. They have their own idea about how it should look, what flowers to use, the placement of those flowers, how many/how little to use. It is a gift to see how much thought is given to each flower- the attention and intention when placing each. It brings many smiles and lots of happiness!

A great starter book is Ikebana: by Shoza Sato (enter here). The book has very simple instruction with color photographs, materials list and so on. There are other very beautifully illustrated books on ikebana, but start with the basics.

I bought floral foam from Joann’s and shallow aluminum baking pan from the 99 cent store. The flowers were purchased from Trader Joes and some even came from my own yard. I have authentic Japanese hasami (Ikebana scissors), and I purchased a class pack of scissors at our local school supply store. It really is that easy to get started. I gave each student their vessel (aluminum baking pan), floral foam and scissor. Then they each chose their flowers and added water to their vessel. I like to show them beforehand what to look for and keep in mind that balance, texture, color, contrast, movement and lines are all important. A great deal of thought goes into each. Once the demonstration was over they were free to make their own beautiful ikebana.

Modern Kanzashi Hair Ornament

kanzashi DIY

French clip style

kanzashi DIY 7

Kimi’s pretty kanzashi hair ornament

kanzashi DIY 1

alligator and french clip style

kanzashi DIY 2

bunny comb

kanzashi DIY 3

kanzashi and jewels

kanzashi DIY 4

detail of kanzashi

kanzashi DIY 6

Hannah’s lovely hair ornament

Today, we made beautiful tsumami kanzashi hair ornaments. This style (folded flowers)- are usually made out of silk.

Our version has a modern take on this traditional craft. We used a variety of card stock paper for the base- there are so many types to choose from. Next, we glued our card stock (I suggest making templates to use) and placed it carefully onto our alligator clip and french clip barrettes. Lastly, we chose kanzashi flowers and sparkly gems to glue on. We had so much fun making these hair ornaments. Each girl had so much fun with this craft for our Summer Camp. Many told me they can’t wait for next year! As a teacher, this makes me so very happy. :-)

Great Wave of Kanagawa Watercolor








The Great Wave off Kanagawa

The Great Wave off Kanagawa is probably one of the most iconic pictures in Japanese Culture today. Produced between 1830-1833, Katsushika Hokusai was a very famous Ukiyo-e woodblock print artist in his time.

Imagine my surprise when I learned that Hokusai first started to paint at age 6. It was stated sometime years before his death (at age 89) that he once said:

“At the age of five years I had the habit of sketching things. At the age of fifty I had produced a large number of pictures, but for all that, none of them had any merit until the age of seventy. At seventy-three finally I learned something about the true nature of things, birds, animals, insects, fish, the grasses and the trees. So at the age of eighty years I will have made some progress, at ninety I will have penetrated the deepest significance of things, at a hundred I will make real wonders and at a hundred and ten, every point, every line, will have a life of its own.”

We had a great time re-imagining our own interpretation of The Great Wave. Many chose several shades of blue that really made each picture unique and special. Japanese arts and crafts are rarely taught outside of Japan. Even in today’s Japanese culture, arts and crafts are taught as a way to preserve and understand the past.

I believe it is a beautiful sentiment to carry on traditions of the past to future generations to learn and appreciate the beauty of it’s culture. I am so lucky to be able to share these wonderful arts with children.