art recipe :: winter blues

this winter is way too long, too cold and too slow…  i used to joke about how cold it gets in saskatoon, but not any more.  it’s not funny.  when the temperature drops to -30 and even lower, your brain gets frozen too.  it’s a fact.  the upside is, though, it’s sunny most of time.  it is beautiful.  and you will get tougher.  when it’s sunny and no wind, i’m okay until it hits -25 or so.  but this winter is so long nonetheless.

i’m stuck in the house.  i might as well being creative.  no pouting allowed.

what should she be riding on…?

a turtle, of course.

what does a turtle look like?

mine doesn’t look like the one on the computer, but that’s okay.  my turtle is braver and creepier.

it’s almost done…

(color pencils, sumi ink, paper)

pregnancy armor (23 weeks)


it’s been a very cold winter here in saskatoon. it was -36℃ (without wind chill) yesterday. i don’t like the icy cold weather. even though i’ve gotten used to it a bit, every time i go out, i dress super-warm. i wear so many layers that i need an extra five minutes to get ready to go out.

since i got pregnant, i’m taking even longer to get ready while i put on my pregnancy equipment. i call it my “pregnancy armor”. my parents sent me a package from japan which included a haramaki (belly wrap) and a sasae-obi (support belt).

a haramaki is knit tube that you wear around your belly. it’s very important to keep your belly warm during pregnancy. whenever i say this to canadians, they’re always surprised to hear it. but in japan, it’s a very common idea.

the sasae-obi is a belt for protecting my back during pregnancy. it almost looks like a bra for the belly. it’s got a belly-shaped cup and a stretchy belt that wraps around the back. you can find this sort of belt in canada.  adding two layers to my belly really makes it stick out. once i put on the haramaki and the belt and tights and maternity jeans, i look totally pregnant. i think i need some kind of a theme song while i’m dressing up.

i’ve started to experience back pain for the first time in my life, from holding up my big belly. i don’t feel that heavy, but i guess i’m trying to balance my body unconsciously. i tend to sit for a long time when i’m drawing. i try to remember to stand up and walk once a hour, but sometimes i forget. my back aches so bad if i don’t stretch once awhile.

the good thing about this back pain is that i can get paul to massage my back. usually i’m the one who gives him a back massage, because he works for long hours standing up. i never understood what back pain felt like before, but now i know. so i think i can give him a better massage now.

poko-chan is doing well, i think and feel. poko-chan continues to kick hard at night when i go to bed. i guess it’s working on kickboxing technique. i used to get one kick at a time, but now i’m getting multiple kicks in a row. another thing that never occurred to me before i got pregnant is that the baby kicks not only out against the belly but inward and downward. it’s pretty weird feeling, being kicked in the bladder from the inside. another mystery of pregnancy.

i don’t want to criticize poko-chan (new to the world, doesn’t know personal etiquette yet), but please don’t kick my bladder…

“it’s gonna be over soon”

“it’s gonna be over soon”

that’s what this guy told me on a street. it was a week ago saturday, early evening. i was walking down the street on my way home from broadway shoe repair. i heard a man’s voice saying, “madam, madam!” from behind.

“am i a madam? mmm, i don’t think so.” so i kept walking.

the voice saying, “madam, madam!” got closer and closer. he was running. i realized the madam was me.

as he got closer, i had a bad feeling. so i said to myself, “kick or punch? kick, yeah kick.” (nod).

he jumped right in front of me and stood there and said, “i know this sounds crazy, but trust me. it’s gonna be over soon.” he was a black guy, looked about 18 years old. dressed normally (baggy pants).


“don’t worry. it’s gonna be over soon. just trust me.”

i shook my head and kept walking past him. but i felt him still standing there, so i turned and looked back. i was right. he was still there. i said: “is this religious thing? then i don’t believe in anything!” it’s true. i don’t believe in anything but me and paul.

his arms were stretched out toward me and he was wiggling his fingers. it looked like he was shooting invisible laser beams at me. i hurried home.

in the elevator, i did my best to erase him from my memory, but in vain. what was “it“?? there are tons of things in the world that i want to be over. i got the feeling he was trying to put a curse on me, especially with the finger wiggling “zapping”.

luckily, i don’t believe in curses either. i prefer to be more positive. here are my top three choices for things i would like to be over soon:

#3 rain
#2 winter
#1 dr. phil

so far, none of them seem to be over. maybe it’s too soon.


spencer book 9

when you’re alone and life is making you lonely, you can always go midtown.
midtown, things’ll be great when you’re
midtown, don’t wait a mitute more,
midtown, everything’s waiting for you.
midtown (midtown), midtown (midtown)
midtown (midtown), midtown (midtown)
(repeat and fade out)

nikuman (with recipe)


on a bone-chilling cold day on your way home from work, what you need is “nikuman”. nikuman are steamed buns filled with meat. they’re very popular in japan, where you can buy them at convenience stores during the winter. there’ll be a steam cabinet near the cash register filled with different types of chuuka-man. chuuka means chinese, who invented them. thanks, china. anyway, your local convenience store will have nikuman (“niku” = meat), also called butaman (“buta” = pork), and kareiman (curry), pizaman (pizza), and anman (“an” = sweet red beans).

they’re all good, especially when it’s cold outside.

there are so many convenience stores in japan that they have to invent new flavours all the time to compete. i’d like to try the “super-spicy habanero pork/kimchee”man from family mart. but there’s no family mart in canada yet, so…

this was my second time trying to make nikuman. the first version was pretty sad: the bread was so hard, it was barely edible. at least the filling was good. i figured i should be able to make better nikuman this time — plus, i had a new recipe!

i used a bag of chinese “steamed bun flour” that i found at the asian market. and the recipe called for LARD…. yes– i was supposed to use lard. i had to buy the lard. the LAAAARD — pig fat! of course i just couldn’t reach for it at the supermarket. i just couldn’t stand the thought a stick of LARD happily sitting in my basket. so i grabbed some vegetable shortening instead. it’s not very good for you either, but at least it isn’t pig fat. all i needed was a tablespoon, but still… i was willing to do ANYTHING (almost) for the perfect nikuman.

yes, i’m contradicting myself by not wanting to put lard in the bread that i’m filling with pork anyway.

so there i was with a stick of vegetable shortening sitting in my kitchen for the first time. it turns out that using shortening is the secret to producing fluffy nikuman. here’s the recipe i used. it’s in japanese, so here’s the translation:

recipe: nikuman

bun (pastry)

  • flour 300g
  • sugar 40g
  • a pinch of salt
  • instant yeast 4g
  • baking powder 10g
  • milk 40ml
  • water 100ml
  • vegetable shortening 15g

meat filling (my version)

  • lean minced pork 150g
  • chinese cabbage about 5 leaves, cut into jullienne, steamed (microwaved), squeeze out all the water
  • garlic 2 cloves, minced
  • ginger about half the size of a golf ball, minced
  • shiitake mushroom 1/2 cup, sliced
  • dash sesame oil
  • dash soy sauce
  • dash oyster sauce
  • sugar 1TB
  • japanese cooking sake wine 1 TB
  • cornstarch 1/2 TB
  • s + p to taste, but don’t actually taste it (raw!)
  1. for the bun, mix all the powdered ingredient in a bowl and make a well in the centre
  2. pour the wet ingredients into the well and mix in thoroughly
  3. when they’re combined, add the shortening and knead until smooth
  4. rest at room temp. for 30 mins
  5. mix the filling and divide into 10 balls
  6. divide the dough into 10 balls and roll them out round.
  7. wrap them around the fillings, pinch at the top
  8. rest for 15 mins
  9. steam for 15 mins: add a splash of white vinegar to the water to prevent discoloration

(makes about 10 nikuman)

you eat nikuman by dipping them into a soy-vinegar sauce mixed with hot yellow mustard (like a hot english mustard). sooo— good.