Chili Recipe Illustration

Happy Friday!  Here's  another Custom Recipe I wanted to share!  I was thrilled when Kristi contacted me to do this chili and pickle recipe for her husband.

She had some great ideas for details to include, such as the red LeCreuset.

I had a lot of fun working with this palette and coming up with simple geometric patterns that would give it a Tex-Mex feel.

There still time to fit in custom orders for Valentines... So shoot me an email if you want me to illustrate your favorite recipe for someone you love.  Hope you cook something delicious this weekend!

Stuffed Cabbage Illo!

Thanks to the mention on Etsy's blog I got a couple more orders for Custom Recipe Illustrations.  I love illustrating family recipes and  I wanted to share one I finished up right before the Holidays.

Stuffed Cabbages!

I've never made stuffed cabbages so I did a little research on the origins.  Stuffed cabbages are mostly part of  Jewish/Eastern European tradition and that lead me to look at Polish, Hungarian and Russian embroidery for motif and pattern inspiration.

 Here's a similar recipe over on Smitten Kitchen if you want to try making your own. 

 I wanted this piece to feel folky and warm just like the dish.  I bet stuffed cabbages would be perfect dish to serve this time of year!

 

 

 

 

Free Printable Knitting Tags

This year I challenged myself to make many hand-knit gifts! I took a trip to North Hampton, MA to WEB'S, the biggest yarn store in the country!  Have you been?  It's amazing!

  I love the whole process of knitting a gift; from selecting the pattern,  choosing the yarn and then wrapping it up all pretty! I'm still trying to get a bunch of presents finished up for the holidays.   So far I've completed 2 scarves, 2 sets of mitts and a hat.. Not bad right?

 

I've been seeing adorable free printable tags on many of my favorite websites; on RavelryDesign Sponge,  and an awesome round up of free printables on Creature Comforts!  I decided to make my own for the holidays!

 I really loved the idea of including the washing directions so the recipient knows exactly how to wash their gift!  And it was fun to draw all the little symbols....

Some of these aren't marked.  Just in case any of my family members are reading the blog : )  The tags don't line up perfectly, but they were good enough for me!  You can still cut off the exterior color and they look pretty good.

Anyways,  I wanted to offer them up for free for any of my knitting readers!  Here's the Poinsettia tag front, back and the Geo tag front and back.  So, Happy Holidays!!  Also as a reminder, if you want to follow my blog via Facebook please "like" my page!

 

Custom Recipe Illos for Sale!

You may have noticed a new tab on my website saying custom recipes!  Or on my Etsy page... I'm pleased to announce I can now take commissions of your family's favorite recipes.

This is something I've been wanting to do for awhile, because I think these would be a lot of fun to work on.  The above recipe is my Mom's Mac and Cheese!  (One of my absolute favorite recipes!) I think a custom recipe illustration with hand-lettered title is an awesome and personal gift!  I'm planning on printing these at 9"x 12", but since the final is digital I can easily print multiples or larger.  If you have questions or want to place an order email me: Jessica@firstpancakestudio.com  HAPPY FRIDAY!!!

Have a Grrrrrrrrreat Year!

It's year of the Tiger! Haven't you heard? No, not that Tiger....
Anyways, I've been loving all of the Tiger themed costumes, keepsakes and ads.
Here's a tiger memo/pen holder I couldn't resist.
And a tiger bell I picked up at Meiji Shrine.. more on that later!
New Years is traditionally a holiday spent with family members whereas Christmas is seen as a holiday for couples. At first I couldn't make sense of that interpretation and then I started thinking of all the romantic comedies where people get together on Christmas. Maybe the Japanese have a point. I spent my New Years with my family eating shabu-shabu!
Shabu-shabu is a tasty dinner you cook at your own table in a large pot filled with a broth. It is called shabu-shabu because that is supposedly the noise the meat makes when it cooks. Our waitress was kind enough to review the technique with us and made sure each of us said "shabu-shabu" while cooking the meat. In addition to meat you are given lots of delicious veggies and tofu to cook in the broth too!
The meat is sliced very thin so that it can cook quickly! (in the amount of time it takes to say shabu- shabu)
There are seasonings and special dipping sauces: sesame for the veggies and soy-vinegar with horseradish for the meat. I'm not sure everyone loved it as much as the grilling meat at your table(yakiniku) but it was still delicious. After you're done cooking the meat and veggies you skim the pot (getting rid of gross floating fat) and add some noddles and finish off the broth cup o noodles style.
After the shabu-shabu we headed off to our next stop for the evening: karoke! On the way we walked by people pounding mochi in the street. To celebrate the New Years people traditionally eat mochi instead of rice. In their homes people have little displays set up with 3 mochi balls piled on top of each other and a mikan (or tangerine) on top. The shape is supposed to be reminiscent of a mountain. I got this plastic one and set up a little scene on top of my microwave.
We watched the drunk, jolly Japanese people pound mochi. One of the men spotted my father and grabbed him to give him a chance to pound the mochi! It was pretty awesome! We all cheered and Adam took photos. I really like the guy in the background laughing!
The rest of the night was pretty low key. However, the next day my family decided to start the year off right with a visit to the Meiji Shrine. The first shrine visit of the year is very important to the Japanese and called the hatsumode. Meiji shrine is one of the most famous and largest shrines in Tokyo so it seemed like a good choice.
We arrived and there were so many people walking the gravely path that the air was filled with dust. We waited in line for an hour or so as the line crept along slowly, luckily it was a beautiful day. Here's a great photo Adam got of the crowd.
Walking under the torii and enjoying a beautiful day.
Entrance to the shrine. Tiger plagues imitating the much smaller ones (called ema) you can write wishes on. The police were there dividing the crowd into smaller more manageable groups. They directed the crowd with a weird alien tiger sign. On this side the red writing tells the crowd to stop and the opposite side had green writing, telling the crowd to proceed with caution.
We walked up to the shrine and each of us threw money onto a giant white tarp covering the whole front steps of the shrine. There were lots of special lucky charms, arrows, o-mamori and hamaya that one could purchase. I picked out the tiger bell! As we left I made Adam pose in front of the long line of sake barrels by one of the entrances to the shrine. I always wonder what they do with all of this sake.
The next day I convinced my family to go investigate the Imperial garden, which was conveniently located a block or two from our hotel. The Imperial garden had 2 motes!
We were handed flags by Japanese boyscouts.

Then we were searched and led into a lane to wait for our chance to see the Emperor. In fact the Emperor only opens up the inner parts of the Imperial garden 2x a year. He does this on the 23rd of Dec and again on Jan 2nd. People come from all over Japan to see him and to wait in line.

It was very organized but I was skeptical we would make it to see him by his second viewing. He doesn't stand there the whole time but comes out and addresses the crowd periodically throughout the day. Claire and I waited patiently.
The line started to move and it looked like we might make it in time for the Emperor's second appearance!
We made it to the inner garden and waited.
On schedule the Emperor showed up with the entire family and the crowd went wild! That is to say everyone waved their flags enthusiastically until he addressed the crowd. The Emperor as far as I can tell has little political power but is seen as a symbol of Japan culturally and he is the highest authority of the Shinto religion. The Japanese Imperial monarchy is the oldest hereditary monarchy in the world.

It was noticeably different from an American crowd in that people didn't yell a lot, they just waved their flags. Go Japan!

Then everyone stopped and took photos. He was brief, probably wishing the crowd a fabulous New Years or whatever Emperors tend to say. Pretty soon after he was done and the crowd waved their flags again in support. Dad's getting a kick out of the whole thing and he has a slight height advantage so he can see.
We got someone to take a photo of us after we saw the Emperor.
I had a great time with my family and hopefully they are all recovering from Jet lag with fond memories of Japan. I have some other visitors coming the last week of Jan and the first 2 of Feb so I'm busy trying to finish up work. I also finished my little Red project but haven't had a chance to scan it. So that's it for now... Happy 2010!

Tanuki = Trouble

Happy New Year! I'm going to start off 2010 with a post I wrote back in November but didn't get around to finishing until now. I've been super busy with my Family we visited Kyoto, Nara, Gora and Tokyo! phewww.. They left just yesterday and I'm just starting to get used to being by myself again... but its soo quiet. I had a blast and I'll put up a post of highlights soon..Tanuki's are one of my favorite mythological creatures of Japan. They are the tricksters in Japanese folktales and known for being quite sneaky. If you ever travel to Japan you will start to notice these statues everywhere. Most often they are outside of restaurants or bars beckoning visitors to have a drink.

They are based off an actual animal called a tanuki. In English they are usually referred to as a badger or a raccoon dog, but in reality they neither and only native to Japan. Here's some sketches I did of the actual animal in preparation for characterizing the tanuki in my story. I didn't want to have my tanuki represented like the ones seen outside of bars because honestly he wouldn't make a very menacing bad guy.

After I finished some basic sketches I tried to stylize him and figure out which features to exaggerate but keep him recognizable. I really liked his little hat so I included that. But I wanted him to have more of a connection to the actual animal so I drew him on all fours.

I did some more research on the tanuki and came up with a list of traits that tanuki's are said to have. Most of them are symbolic but this definitely explains how these creatures are represented in statue form.

In stories tanukis are always up to trouble, they are skilled shape shifters and create illusions. Often they will pay for something in fake money that will turn into leaves after they leave. One of the most famous transformation stories is of a tanuki turning himself into a teapot. (which just seems like a bad call by the tanuki)

You may also notice his large balls. In Japanese slang they are known as kinbukuro or money bags. Some say the gigantic testes are a reminder not to be stingy. In Japanese testes are called kin-tama or (golden jewels) they are a symbol of good luck. In some legends the tanuki has the ability to stretch their balls more than eight tatami mats. (which incase you were wondering is about the size of my apartment) If you check out this article on Pink Tentacle you can see a series of prints by Japanese woodblock artist Kuniyoshi depicting tanuki using their balls for various everyday activities.

Well that's all for today! I'm going to try to catch up on the posts I missed while traveling the last few weeks with some belated New Years Countdowns and highlights of my families visit!

Fall is Fierce

It's the end of October and Fall is finally here; the leaves are changing colors, the vending machines are stocked with warm beverages and I froze my ass off biking down a mountain from the Fire Festival at Kurama. It was an eventful day with Jidai Matsuri in the morning and Hi Matsuri at night. I took a lot of great photos and enjoyed the spectacle of it all.
I shot over 800 photos throughout the day so its going to be hard to narrow them down... I'm gonna try.
The Jidai Matsuri is known as one of the "big three" festivals of Kyoto. The festival is a procession of clothing representing the different historical eras which Kyoto was the capital of Japan. (794-1868)

 

First up is the Royal Army of the Meiji Restoration. This movement was made up of young farmers who volunteered themselves to team up with the Royal Forces against the Shogun.

 

Patriots of the Meiji Revolution: this guy has a green train!

Then we have the Edo period (1600-1868): a lot of these women are dressed up as specific famous women from history. This lady above is dressed as a famous dancer.
Close up of Edo ladies with cool hats, the head wraps kind of reminds me of Star Wars.

These are images from the procession of Toyotami Hideyoshi, a very important figure in Japanese history. Hideyoshi implemented the practice that only samurai had the rights to bear arms, he built the Osaka castle and had a large influence over the Japanese tea ceremony.

He unified Japan under a single authority, but was never shogun.

I think this guy is from Lord Oda Nobunaga's entry into Kyoto. Lord Oda Nobunaga was a powerful feudal lord and came to assist in the reconstruction of the city. He successfully repaired the Imperial Palace and brought peace to the citizens.

More guys from Lord Oda Nobunga's procession... I think. I love that blue!

Whats in the box? Maybe presents!

I think now we are getting into the Muromachi period (1388-1573) These people are representing the triumphant entry of General Kusunoki Masashige into Kyoto. When the Emperor Godaigo was returning to Kyoto, this General who was very devoted to the Emperor went to Hyago to welcome him back.
I can't get over the beautiful armor these men wear.

 

Or these bright blue outfits either.

A pause in the parade gave me time to get a nice still.

Also a close up of this guys outfit... Who doesn't appreciate a good floral pattern?

Mini gongs,as you can probably tell there wasn't a lot of performance involved in the festival. The gongs and some of the wooden instruments were played while the participants walked.

Wooden stick instruments and colorful socks!

Women of the medieval ages would come up to the city to sell bundles of fire-wood and flowers on their heads.

 

Biggest umbrella ever! Did you know that only two things frequently get stolen in Japan? Bicycles and umbrellas. Bicycles because drunken business men take them when they need a lift home. So it's important to never leave yours unlocked, umbrellas because the Japanese use umbrellas in all weather; sun, rain and snow. You will actually see umbrella locks at crowded places....

More men in multi patterned outfits with armour and swords. I totally dig it.

That hat looks really heavy though.

 

For the most part the horses seemed very nervous or downright unhappy about being in the parade. A few times I thought I was going to see someone get tossed.

Traditional weapons, shoes, armor and hats. The parade started near us at Kyoto City hall and ended at Heian Jingu Shrine. We had a great view of the festival from where we are but it probably wasn't as picturesque as having the Shrine in the background.

These ladies with clothes on their heads are from Katsura in the west outskirts of Kyoto, they would go into the city and sell fish and vegetables.

Here is the wife of Toyotami Hideyoshi, her name is Lady Yodo.

Then we have the Kamakura period (1192-1333) with many members of the Yabusame archers.

They are wearing deer skin on their legs to stay warm as these are their traveling clothes.

Next we are onto the Fujiwara period (897-1185) Less patterned outfits...

An archer with an exquisite hat.

Then is from the Heian Period (794-1185) This is Tomoe-Gozen, her husband was a general and she fought by his side wearing male armor. Maybe this inspired Mulan?

Women from the same era with outfits that seem very Chinese inspired.

I think the children look kind of creepy with their faces painted this way, like giant dolls that have come to life.

There were outfits like these throughout the parade for they were a traditional clothing for the common people.

More court nobles, wearing different colors according to their rank.

more blue!

This child has the wings of a butterfly and an imaginary bird called a karyo-binga. It says these outfits are worn in Shinto rituals by the children and they are called gagaku.

Anyways, I thought they looked great.

Then we have the sacred carriages; one for Emperor Komei, the last ruler of Kyoto. The other is for Emperor Kanmu the Emperor who moved the capital from Nagaoka to Kyoto. They are attended by priests from the shrine.

This guy's glare is intense.

Some more people from the procession, clad in pink and carrying large lanterns?

I have no idea what he's carrying but it reminds me of a lollipop.

Phew, that's it, that's all I'm posting! As you can see people of all ages participated in the parade and foreigners and the locals lined the streets to catch a glimpse and to photograph the annual procession of Jidai Matsuri. I tried my best to include a lot of my favorite costumes and to put them in order, which was quite a challenge.

The Festival ended and my buddies and I made our way to a ramen place for some quick lunch and then hopped back on our bikes so that we could catch the Hi Matsuri at night in Kurama.

Coming up... Fire, nudity and biking a mountain! What's not to like?

Heian-Jingu dance party!

Last weekend it was my goal to: make it to Nijo-jo before closing time, shop at Uniqlo and eat some sushi! I managed to get all of these things done and photograph the student festival at Heian-jingu as well. Victo and I biked down to the shrine, met up with some friends and checked out the festivities.

The festival was made up of students ranging in age from Primary school to College. They carried in floats representing their schools and performed dance routines, some traditional and others more modern.
These students were decked out in Halloweenish colors. Midway through the dance they pulled down the top parts of their outfits to reveal orange shirts underneath. This stripping reveal seemed to be a popular move with a lot of the other teams as well. Many of the traditional dances were performed with these wooden blocks. The blocks remind me Spanish dancers with castanets. 

A large number of the dances were also narrative or had specific characters. These girls were cat dancers. They prowled around with catlike movement and wore these funny masks.
The dance teams were made up of both men and women. For the most part everyone wore the same outfit. I was very impressed to see so many Japanese guys in floral prints or pink, but I guess that's just something that I find surprising as a westerner.
Everyone also had special dancing shoes. I really like these tabi style ones, don't they look like ninja turtle feet? Most of the costumes were so inventive and interesting with strong traditional influences.These outfits seem really anime influenced to me. This dance had a narrative too, some sort of love story with a man giving a woman a flower. This team only had a few boys though so I think some of the girls on the team also danced the boy part.

These were some of my favorite outfits and dance group... but hey I'm a sucker for green and sparkly gold bows.

I just thought these outfits were really clever with the types of movements they were performing. I love seeing the bit of the red pants when they leap or kick their legs up. These costumes didn't impede their movements and created beautiful silhouettes.
Right? And you can see the Heian Shrine in the background too!

This group was an all girl group, they were loud and reminded me a lot of cheerleaders. They started out with white tops and these horrible pink/blue sheer sleeves. About half way through they performed the strip move to reveal these bizarre black bean shaped breast plates... I don't really get it, but I enjoyed watching them dance.

We watched some more dancing by some of the younger students and took a break to find a snack.

I split a cup of these with Victo. They served these little balls in a cup and you got your choice of strawberry or chocolate. (shyocolato) on top. The batter was a pretty basic batter, not too sweet and I liked watching them cook these. We also got some takoyakior balls like this but with octopus on the inside. Those were also delicious, but I ate them before I could get a photo... yum!

We walked through the games area of the festival and I couldn't help but photograph this group. I love the outfits!

I saw a group playing duck,duck, goose! Did you know that duck, duck, goose is only played in the US? One night I was comparing childhood games/songs with some of the Europeans and as it turns out they had never played duck, duck, goose. The other American and I made everyone get in a big circle in the middle of the park late at night and play. Many of the Europeans deemed the game unfair... haha. It was a lot of fun. Also, you can just barely see the very large torii behind the park, this designates the entrance to the shrine.

 

Stuffed koala moonbounce. Something about this really disturbs me, can you guess what it is?
We left the festival to check out the shrine before closing. There were still lots of dancers milling around in their fabulous costumes.

They were nice enough to humor us by posing in front of the shrine.

This is the entrance of the shrine and is called a shimenawa. These large ropes and zigzag paper strips marks the boundaries of a sacred space. The other way to tell you are at a Shinto Shrine is the large torii that is usually painted bright orange at the entrance to the shrine. You can barely make it out behind the kids playing duck, duck, goose.
Inside the shrine is the main offering hall. People come here and make offerings of money and pray. People visit shrines for lots of different reasons. Shrines are a popular place to visit at the start of the New Year, for festivals, weddings and when babies are born.
At first I didn't realize that this tree had paper tied to its branches. These are fortunes or omikuji, they are bought at the shrine and have various fortunes in them from very good; daikichi to very bad; daikyo. You unfold one and see what your fortune is, then you tie it to this tree. If its a good fortune it will come true and if its bad it will be averted.
Here's a shot of some school children hanging out by the inner part of the shrine. All of the school kids wear uniforms here. I guess its also normal for them to go hang out in large groups at shrines. I can't imagine kinds hanging out at churches casually in the states, but maybe that's me.
These wooden plates you can purchase at the shrine are called ema. Visitors write their hopes on the plates and leave them to come true. People often wish for success in business, good health, passing entrance exams, wealth or love.

The sun was setting and the light made everything look beautiful within the walls of the shrine.

So naturally Victo and I kept taking candid and posed photos of each other and the boys too. We were both wearing new stuff we bought in Japan. I was wearing my new Uniqlo skirt and some leopard print leggings. Now I look so Japanese! But doesnt Victo look cute? I don't think she realized I was taking a photo.

 

 

Then we made the guys line up and do a model shot.... classic
We had to leave because they were having the closing ceremonies here and we didn't have tickets. But, we did check out this band warming up. I don't even know what to say about this outfit. Haight-Ashbury meets Japan?

Then we biked a little farther south to Shijo for the much anticipated sushi dinner. The river is still crowded at sunset because it's only just starting to feel like Fall. But hey, I'm not complaining!
All along the river were couples sitting together almost perfectly spaced. It really made me miss Robin : (

Of course I felt much better once we got our delicious chirashi bowls! A bunch of us got the same one cause it was a great selection just for 980 yen and a free miso soup with our student ID's! Yumm what a great day!