Raffle in Support of "New Era" for Japan

Thanks to all who've come out to support Japan at various fundraisers so far. Don't forget there are more happening over the coming weeks, and the Japanese people, many of whom still reside in shelters and school auditoriums, will need all our help. It's becoming clearer every day that the situation in Japan, both near the Fukushima Daiichi plant, in the "no go" area, as well as in all of Japan, is going to be quite dire for a long time to come. Remember to Remember Japan.

I've decided to rally some generous friends, and host a fundraiser here on my site. After considering many formats and options, I have settled on a raffle format. For ease of administration, and to keep awareness going about the state of affairs in Japan, I will host this over successive weeks. Each item will be featured independently. So far, we have wearable art, custom Japanese calligraphy, Award-winning author Elizabeth Andoh's cookbooks Kansha and Washoku, Saké pairings.

A New Era for Japan

I can think of no better way to kick off our raffle than to feature the beautiful "Irezumi" style customized New Era cap. This is absolutely one-of-a-kind wearable art, designed by a Japanese architecture student, Hiiro Tomita now attending Cal Poly SLO.

Hiiro Tomita was born in Japan. He began creating his custom wearable art back in 2008 and hopes to one day become successful enough to help defray costs of his education. He works in various styles including the traditional Japanese "Irezumi" art. Aficionados of ink will recognize the style of Japanese tattoos and indeed, Hiiro also designs those, one of which adorns Sasha Mallory who dances for Adam Lambert. His caps have graced the heads of customers worldwide. and you may have seen Sasha rocking her cap in her So you Think you Can Dance audition.
You can read interviews with Hiiro at New Era Cap Talk and view more of his custom work at his site Hiiro Tomita Studios.
I asked Hiiro about his inspiration for this cap. My inspiration for the design comes from traditional japanese art and japanese tattoos. The significance of the rising sun to the Japanese nation as well as the symbolic image of sakura leaves was incorporated to further define the Japanese culture and invoke the pride and honor within the country.


Spread the word, bid high, bid often. Many thanks to Hiiro for this gorgeous wearable art!


Mt Fuji is very symbolic and beloved to Japanese. Hat Size: 7 3/8.


Sakura, or cherry blossoms are as well as the rising sun. Japan is known as the Land of the Rising Sun.


Let's help Japan usher in a New Era by showing some support. Bid away!


Here's how the raffle works:

1. Minimum donation is $10.

2. You may donate more than once, gaining extra chances to win with each $10 increment. For example, if you'd like to donate $100 that gets you ten chances to win, $40 gets you four chances.

3. Payments will be made via Razoo, using the button below.

4. Anyone who posts on their own blog linking back to mine gets one additional "free" bid. Send me a link and I'll add your extra bid to the spreadsheet.

5. The contest for this item will run for one week only from: today through midnight EST Wednesday May 4.

6. The donations will go to: Doctors without Borders.

7. At the close of the week, I will use the random number generator to select the winning entry from the spreadsheet Razoo generates.


See Hiiro introduce the cap here on YouTube.



Valencia - a Few Photos to Whet your Appetite

Once in a while the stars align and a wonderful opportunity falls in your lap. So it was back in June when a spot opened up in a Wines of Valencia media tour. Would I be available to join some food and travel writers to learn about the wines of Valencia? How fast could I say "Si"?


Welcome to Valencia (front door of Hotel Palau de la Mar, our hotel)

This is a plaza just blocks from my hotel.


Small quiet streets...I was able to walk the city prior to our official tour "duties" began.

No time for the museums, this trip.

Through the middle of the city runs a park - or a series of them - that was once a river that flooded the city. After the flood, Valencia re-routed the river, filled in the old river bed and did what the Spanish seem to have a unique ability to do. They built a modern city center complete with eye-popping modern architecture, science and nature parks, music halls and bridges that incorporate historical references.

Palau de les Arts - the opera house

The Hemisphere


A bridge that reminded me of the Zakim Bridge.


Imagine a place where people place beautiful tiles on the undersides of balconies. You know, just in case a pedestrian should look up she should have something beautiful to look at.

I am smitten and looking forward to when I can return.

Stay tuned as more posts and links are coming!



Thinking outside the box, housing our selves

  public art in Vancouver

Houseboats Coal Harbor, Vancouver

I've been thinking a lot about housing lately. With the turmoil and foreclosures it seems a natural time to revisit assumptions. We tend to accept choices given to us without questioning what else there might be. Why choose between city apt or center-entrance colonial? Single family homes are the blindly accepted "goal" of many. Thought to be a haven in a heartless world the isolation of that kind of living can be deadly boring and sometimes, just deadly. Just look at the news.

It's as good a time as any to think about community, too. How to break the isolation? What about something like an extended family, but one of your choosing? While I love solitude probably more than most, I'm also one who thrives on social interaction. The trick is finding a way to have both. The article that triggered these ruminations is called To each her own.  It shows how two women created separate but connected living spaces in one large shared floorplan. They've worked out a way that gives them privacy and individual lives but companionship when they want it and how they choose it. Not the forced intimacy of being roommates but sharing a physical space in distinctly separate but connected living spaces. (I don't recommend the loosey-goosey legal and financial arrangements, especially between friends, but it's their choice.) Remember "good fences make good neighbors?" Boundaries are good to know. The paradox is that it's freeing to have them.

Co-housing is another idea whose time has come. An arrangement that varies in form it usually includes separate living quarters with a communal kitchen and meeting space. Members define how much contact and contribution is desired or required. Reading about this Burlington VT co-housing community at meal time makes it seem very appealing. When so many of us no longer live in extended families, co-housing can offer the multi-generational living that is more natural than how many of our lives end up being structured. The point is it's ours to choose. We can live independent disconnected lives on parallel tracks without ever sharing a meal with the family or the single person that lives next door, or not. There are more options than we typically think of.

For women in particular I think that one's own place is of greater importance than most of us realize. It's more than space in the closet or decorating choices, it's a physical manifestation of your self. It is your toe-hold in the world, your connection to the rock whether the waters around you are angry and lashing or calm and mirror-like. In my college days I knew a couple who, at the time were probably the age I am now. They were both artists and lived in separate wings of the same house with common rooms in between. It always struck me as ideal. Each time I saw them, I thought they looked deliriously happy with each other. I attributed this in no small measure to them having the space in their lives to choose to be together how and when it was best for both. Their children also went to boarding school. My husband could not have been more accommodating with my move into his space. But as long as we are here, it will be that. His space. I have lost mine. In some real way I lost my place in this world. It's more than a metaphor. It is a loss I grieve nearly every day and one which I know he struggles to understand. 

Maybe there are more opportunities in the housing market if we think more creatively about them. Certainly the two women in the NYT story had the experience of coming up against confusion and disbelief. Only the architect got it. 

For a completely different spin on architecture see this boîte in HK.