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It feels like I have been putting the winter coat on my house the last couple days, and it has been quite exciting! Even though it is just roxul insulation board that I am doing on the exterior it somehow makes the house suddenly look much more finished. Take a look!


Here it is from one more angle. Not bad, eh?


Today I tackled the window trim of my tricky, but beautiful octagon window and am quite pleased with how it came out.

IMG_4399 IMG_4400

Tomorrow I hope to start putting up furring strips which will allow me to start putting up exterior siding when my family comes for a big work weekend next week! So I have spent this evening sketching and brainstorming how I want to put up my siding, as my furring strips will determine this. Here are my sketches.


Above is my north wall and below is my south wall. I am pretty sure I like this design, of horizontal for most of it with small vertical sections in the dormer.


And in the top right is my west wall. Pretty set on horizontal for this whole wall. But then my east wall… I don’t know what I want to do there! 

As you can tell from my 4 possible sketches, I am undecided for my back east wall, which has the little overhang and braces. I would love opinions and feedback on these possible designs, and any and all permutations of top and bottom. which is why I have 1a and 1b, etc.

Someone once told me that horizontal gives a grounded, Earth energy feeling, and that vertical is more the Tree energy and diagonal is Fire energy. It feels good for my house to be mostly earth energy, grounded and sturdy. But I feel I want a little bit of Fire and Tree energy as well. Perhaps I am getting too philosophical here but the upper left design of my east wall, 1a and 1b, is the one I am drawn to most at this point and it feels to me like it has a nice balance of energies. Although diagonals may be Fire, it somehow to me also feels like it has a boat like Water energy. Can you see how it could look like the bow of a boat? A boat that can cut through even fire… And then I also see mountains and hills in the herring bone pattern, making it have a grounded earth energy… This pattern may be the trickiest to pull off but I probably will only build my own house once, so why not go all out? I would love to hear what others think about the possible designs I am considering. Do you have any thoughts or opinions?


WAHOO! My Roof is on! And my stove pipe chimney is in!!! And just in time as temperatures have suddenly plummeted and is feels like it could be November! Although, it may be a few months before my stove arrives from Orcas island, Washington :-/ But thats ok. Now I know my house will survive this coming winter, even if for some strange reason I had to stop working on it tomorrow. But my hope is I will have ALL my exterior work done before the snow fly’s! That means, the rest of the window trim, my insulation board, furring strips, and siding all still need to get done! But I am feeling good and excited for my my family work weekend coming up in just a few weeks and then possibly another work weekend in early November witth a few friends from my cabinet making class at Heartwood!

So here are a few pictures of my roof:

This transition from the 3:12 pitched roof over my loft to my 9:12 roof for the rest of my house was quite a trick. I studied the first tiny house that Hammerstone did carefully, which had a similar roof line, and mimicked how Maria flashed that one. It was a good full morning of careful work just to do this little transition on both sides, but I have to say I am pretty pleased with how it came out.


Here it is from another angle, before the ridge cap went on. There were multiple layers of flashing and counter flashing going on here, all carefully lapped to shed water out.


And that fascia board is stained with the same linseed oil – pine tar stain that I used on my window trim! I think I am going to use it on my whole exterior, which I imagine will give my house a bit of the look of a rustic log cabin in the woods. But I am open to suggestions and am curious what people think! Although tell me soon if you think it is a horrible idea because I may move forward and start staining my siding as soon as next week ;-)

And my stove pipe! That was quite a trick too to put in! And I couldn’t have done it without the help of my friend Saahas, so a big thanks to him! Right now it is assembled as it would be for “travel mode;” just barely sticking up out of the roof. But when it is stationary and I am burning fires there will be another 3 foot length of stove pipe before that cap goes on.


Although Saahas was there helping me yesterday, today I finished this roof up all on my own, doing that fancy transition between the two pitches and putting on the ridge cap.

When I got to the ridge cap I kind of wanted a second person around as it would mean less climbing up and down and someone there just in case something went awry (roof work does have it’s risks) so I called my friend Rena to see if her or her brother might be able to come over and give me a hand. Rena is in the middle of her own strawbale timberframe build, and when I called it turned out Saahas was over there helping them get her roof on! I got a kick out of realizing how parallel our two builds are right now, and how wonderful it is to have such a close friend going through her own process with her build. It has been a powerful reflection and a great place for me to practice mutual support and celebration of both the joys and the struggles of building. (Rather than competition, comparison, or envy… No I am not perfect, and sometimes I fall into that, but I think most days I can celebrate us all)

So since they were all busy on Rena’s roof I managed to finish the ridge cap on my own, and this is my selfie at the end of the day; Happy, exhausted and relieved that my roof is on!


Let the rain gods come now, I say!




I have to say, I was really tempted to just take a nap on the ridge cap a few times… Scooting along that thing and climbing up and down the ladder gets tiring after a while! But I finished it and got to say I feel pretty proud :)

Afterwards I took a drive over to Rena’s where they were just finishing up hers! And we swapped stories about how we both had some leaks in the 24 hour downpour that we just had which got us both motivated to get our roofs on asap. And now they are both on! Her’s green, and mine red, her’s strawbale and mine on wheels, both beautiful and unique works of art and labors of love.


So there she is!! My beautiful house, one step closer to done :-D


Hello everyone! I wanted to let you know that after one week being able to focus on my house I am quite sure I made the right decision. I finally feel organized on top of things, rather than 3 steps behind, and I have gotten so much done and I am a much more pleasant person to be around ;-)

And, although temporarily leaving my job was a big leap of faith, I am already so grateful for the notes of encouragement I’ve gotten from people, saying they are inspired by what I am doing and wanting to support me to finish my project. At least for this first week, my lack of income has been made up by donation on my indiegogo site, So thank you so much!!

And I promise you, I have not just been lounging around lazily on my couch with this extra time. Upon deciding to take a leave from Hammerstone and having that big scary conversation with Maria, but having it go better than I could have ever dreamed (she says she wants me to hopefully come back full time after my house is done!), I went home and made this massive To Do list:


I figure this To Do list will take me from now until at least the end of October. But note that some things are already checked off!!

And then I took off for the Mother Earth News Fair, which I wrote about in an earlier Blog post. This was the perfect way for me to celebrate making this shift in my life.

So what have I gotten done this past week? I ordered my metal roof, which should arrive tomorrow if I am lucky! I finishes putting purlins on my roof and got all my stickers and two pairs of saw horses made in preparation for all my window trim and siding wood to come. And indeed, I was all prepared when it came from a local saw mill, Cory Schillif, on Thursday!


Stickering wood is important to let it dry properly and minimize the chances of it warping or twisting too much. It also helps to prevent mold and bugs that might like to take home in a pile of wet wood.

Yes, it is the sad truth, until now I have used the one pair of plastic sawhorses that I borrowed from John. Now I have my own! And they are beautiful and have already come in handy...

Yes, it is the sad truth, until now I have used the one pair of plastic sawhorses that I borrowed from John. Now I have my own! And they are beautiful and have already come in handy…

So once my wood arrived I got to work on my window trim, and I have to say I couldn’t be more pleased with how it has come out! I am using a pine tar – linseed oil stain from this company called solvent free paints and it is pretty cool stuff! The pine tar is a natural wood preservative with a gentle antiseptic and water repellent effect. And Linseed oil helps to nourish the wood, like moisturizer for our skin!

IMG_4353Now, my windows have been a bit of a struggle. Because I decided to use mostly found and salvaged windows (not recommended) I have had some problems with leaking on more than one of them. It has gotten to the point where I have even considered tearing out a few of them and replacing them (not something any builder wants to have to do, especially on a new construction project!). But I have also recognized that once my metal roof goes on with eaves, and if I do a good job with the window trim the windows they will be much better protected when all is said and done than they are now. Another challenge I was facing when designing my window trim details was that my walls are going to be build out. Meaning that from the sheathing plane I am adding 1 1/4″ of roxul board, the 1/2″ furring strips and then my siding. So How could I design window trim that would act as extension jambs and trim all in one? And that I would still like aesthetically?

Well, here is what I came up with:

trial window #1

trial window #1

My trim is 1 1/2″ thick larch from a local saw mill. Larch is often used for decks and other outdoor applications because it is one of our local naturally rot resistant species. And, another cool fact, it is a deciduous conifer, meaning it looks like an evergreen but it loses its leaves in the fall!

I assembled the trim with this wood on edge, using 3 1/2″ stock for the sides and top and 4 1/2″ stock for the bottom to create a sill that stick out slightly further than the rest. The bottom is beveled at 10 degrees in order to shed water, which I did by ripping the back edge on the table saw. And the top is beveled at 5 degrees, which is barely noticeable to the eye but will still shed water.

Here you can see all the frames for one side of my house assembled, waiting to be installed!


Then I installed them using pocket screws on the sides and top so that the holes will be invisible, and putting a bead of caulk also on the sides and top to help create a water tight seal.


With this design it didn’t matter that some of my windows are basically flush with my sheathing plane and some have J-channels so they stuck out and inch or so beyond that plane. The depth of these frames was able to accommodate all of that and will also accommodate the roxul board that will be going on soon (you can see one board up in the photo above.

Lastly, I did an important flashing detail above each window.

I made these myself using the break we have at Hammerstone. This is the basic design and then I actually ended up folding each end in a way that creates almost a little bathtub to shed all water out.

I made these myself using the metal break we have at Hammerstone. This is the basic design and then I actually ended up folding each end in a way that creates almost a little bathtub to shed all water out.

And below you can see them installed. I slit the house wrap right above the window trim and put another bead of caulk behind the flashing, which got nailed directing the the sheathing with roofing nails, and the I taped the over the corners again.


I am very pleased overall with how these came out and am actually kind of looking forward to a good rain to test them. But I also hope to have my metal roof on by the end of this week, so that will also add much protection to my whole structure!

Cheers, and thanks again for reading. And Happy full moon eclipse! What a sight that was last night!

Big Changes

As I can feel the seasons changing around me many emotions, both good and hard have come up. It has been a full summer of building, working on both my own and other people’s houses. My friend, Rena, had her straw bale raising last weekend, and Amy, another friend and a hammerstone client, has been helping me and my coworker put up her beautiful Shou-sugi-ban siding on her tiny house and prepping her house for an interior trim class which is running this week. Their houses are lookings beautiful! And I am proud to be able to support these women in making their dream homes; to share in their excitement, to commiserate together when things are hard, to witness their processes, and to actually have lent a physical hand in the building of their homes.

But as the seasons begin to change I am feeling a pull to give more time to my own dream home.  After much thought I have decided to take some time off from working for Hammerstone in order to be able to focus more fully on my own house. I am incredibly grateful that I am able to do this with Maria’s blessings (Maria is the owner/operator of Hammerstone). Asking for this time off was, and still is, a bit scary as it means giving up my main source of income for a while and letting go of a certain amount of job security. But both Maria and my own intention is that this will allow me to finish my house sooner and give my full creative energy to it, and then I can return to Hammerstone and my other passions with more to give.

As many of you know, this tiny house journey has worked on me as much as I have worked on it. I do believe that everyone deserves a chance to go for their dreams, but actually asking and allowing myself to receive support for my own dreams is not always easy. And I know I am not the only one who struggles with this. But what I hope to inspire through living this journey, is a world where more individuals feel it is well to take care of themselves, to do what makes them happiest, and live their dreams and passions, as I truly believe that if we each are able to do this we will find that actually all of us benefit, for it is true that we can only love each other as much as we love our selves.

The outpouring of support I have received all throughout this tiny house journey has helped me to believe that indeed I too am worthy of manifesting my dreams. And yet up until now I have chosen to work on the houses of others almost 30 hours a week and work on my own on average probably only 10 hours a week. For a while that felt ok, and even good in the beginning stages of my build.

But recently I have felt like I have less to give to both the projects of others and to my own. This has shown me that it is time to shift the balance and to really be able to pour my heart and soul into my house to bring the birthing of this dream to completion. My tiny house is no longer just an idea. It is a reality, with four walls, a roof, windows, and a door. But there is still so much to be done. And much of it are the things I am the most excited for, including the interior design and finish carpentry, and interior and exterior finishes, where I get to truly express myself artistically. But an artist cannot make her masterpiece if she feels rushed and financially constrained. And so I have decided take the leap of taking a break from hammerstone and doing another fundraising push in hopes that you, like me, can see the value in what I am creating and feel inspired to support it.

My fundraising page is still and there are still perks available, including a weekend getaway in my tiny house when it is done!

Some of the particular artistic flourishes I hope to be able to implement that you could support are a stain glass insert in my octagon window made by Tony Serviente, a local stain glass artist, and a zen like tatami mat room under my loft, as well as a small ofuro style bath in my bathroom. I also am working on a passive way to heat my water with my tiny wood stove in the winter and with the sun in the summer, but to implement this will require some fancy custom carpentry and plumbing work.

The two stain glass designs I am considering for my octagon window

The two stain glass designs I am considering for my octagon window (colors are approximations, as glass is more subtle and dynamic than sketch-up will allow me to do).

All these things take many hours of labor, most of which will be my own labor. But I have decided it is worth my time and energy and it is where my heart is, and so I am taking the plunge to work on this project full time from now until it is done. Will you support me to do this?

If yes, please visit or if you are more comfortable sending a check directly e mail me at and we can arrange that.

In so much gratitude for all that this world offers and the ways in which we are all interconnected.

This weekend I had the great pleasure of going to the Pennsylvania Mother Earth News Fair. It was a blast! It inspired and energized me, reminding me why I do what I do, and how many other awesome people there are out there doing equally awesome and amazing things. What an amazing an educational event, full of everything from seed saving workshops, to mushroom medicine, to super efficient wood stoves, and yummy organic food.

While down there I got to reconnect with an old friend from the natural building world, Chris, also known as uncle mud, and squish my hands in some mud as we shared a booth. Over the course of the weekend I watched as kids helped him build a little rocket mass heater and a mini cob oven that they then cooked garlic bread in. I witnessed kids and adults light up as they talked about their dreams of building their own hand sculpted house and I remembered the magic that happens as people squish their toes and fingers in mud. A little boy looked up at his parents, all covered in mud, and said “I’m allowed!” and his parents smiled. Indeed, our culture needs more environments where we are allowed to be dirty and messy and happy.

Chris told stories to me and others of how he would teach mud workshops to prisoners and how suddenly these tough criminals would be telling their stories of vulnerability while squishing in the mud. And I watched as a young couple that reminded me of Peter and I when we were just discovering the world of natural building spent almost the whole weekend at our booth, totally entranced by this new world that was opening up to them. “This is the dream I never knew I had!” said the woman.

Although I enjoyed sharing about my tiny house and the work I do at hammerstone, I think what was most inspiring about being at this mother earth news fair was seeing everyone else’s excitement; the excitement of other vendors as they talked about what they were most passionate about, and the excitement of fair goers as they eagerly gobbled up all this new and juicy information.

Indeed, it is weekends and events like this one that make me feel hopeful about the future of our world. So many people doing so many good things!

Guess what! I wrote a post for Ethan Waldman’s blog, and he decided to feature it and it is live now! Here is the link:

Ethan is a bit of a celebrity in the tiny house world, having written multiple books for tiny house enthusiasts, and connected many tiny housers to other tiny housers. I am so honored to be featured on his blog! I hope you will go check it out and see what he is all about too!

Phew! It is definitely late summer and I am feeling a bit of that late summer fatigue. But the pressure of fall and winter is pushing me to keep going. Mostly it is a good kind of tired. A satisfied kind of tired after a day of good work for something you are passionate about. But some days the amount of details that go into building a house just overwhelm me! It is all in the details, I tell you. The little weatherization details, the artistic details, the making sure to order material far enough ahead of time so you have it when you need it details… the tiny little details that no one else will notice or know about but could make the difference between a warm, cozy, inviting, and long lasting house and one that is not. But I won’t bore you with the details… Except to say that I did have a leak in my house wrap that I am hoping I fixed but will not know for sure until I have another good rainstorm. I share this only because for any of you out there thinking about building or in the midst of building I want you to know that these things do happen. And sometimes we freak out and sit down and cry and feel like throwing up our hands up and giving up. But part of the beauty of a project like this is that you can’t give up. You can’t walk away. Not after you have put as much time and money and effort as I have into this. And so there is nothing to do but keep moving forward, problem solving and fixing the “mistakes,” learning from them, but not letting them stop you. And this builds character. A project like this builds you as much as you build it. I swear.

Ok, enough of the pep talk. Now I will share with you some awesome and exciting photos of all the progress I have made! My last window went in yesterday morning and it is my beautiful octagon window! The special touch of either stain glass or wooden hearts will be added later, but the window, custom made by a small company in Vermont is in! And I couldn’t be happier with it.

Can you tell how pleased I am?

So Much Light inside! I love it!

And it opens!

The other big news of the last month is that my door is in!! A beautiful, solid wood door that I bought for $70 from the Ithaca Re-use center and lovingly sanded the paint off, re stained it, and built the door jamb for and then hung in my door opening! It was quite a project, and I am still perfecting the white oak sill for the bottom but I am very happy to have this door in. Most people get pre-hung doors, that come with jambs and everything. I fell in love with this door but knew it would be a project to get in. But I have to give a big thanks to my friend Barry Segal who took on this project with me, going to the hardware store to find the right hinges, helping me figure out how wide and how tall the jambs needed to be, and making a creative router jig to help me route out the spaces for the hinges. And then of course he helped me hang it. And now I have a door that swings shut with such a satisfying *Click* and I even have a key to lock it with!

Sanding the paint off

Sanding the paint off

And hung in my house! (there were a lot of steps in between sanding the paint off and getting it hung, but I won’t go into that now)

Lastly, I want to share the two timber frame style braces that I put on the back of my tiny house, made from some donated white oak I received from a friend:

And they are good and strong too!


Just to make sure both John and I hung on them together :D

Thanks again for all you support and I hope you are enjoying watching this journey unfold!
For the complete photo journey check out my facebook album

Looking Out From In

This Saturday was an Absolutely Glorious day. I got to experience in the most visceral and real way thus far what my house will feel like when it is done. I finally got it completely sheathed with plywood and got all the windows cut out. And said Good Bye Tarp!! And woah, what a difference it made. Suddenly I could feel the light streaming in (and boy was it a lot of light! I am so glad I chose big full sized windows despite it being a tiny house) and I could see the sky and the field, buzzing with bees harvesting from the wildflowers…. I could imagine being curled up in the loft on a cold winter day looking out my octagon window and watching the snow fall. And to stand inside something I had creating with my own two hands… To know that it was me, from the dream, to the design, to learning sktechup, to raising the money, to working through the fear and the, “who am I to BE…..,” to pounding the nails, to bringing the people together to raise the walls… There is nothing quite like it that I have experienced. I truly feel my heart and soul expanding and opening as I soak in all in… What a glorious journey it has been!! And it isn’t over yet! Thank you to every single one of you who have help to create this; who have witnessed and affirmed me and my dream, who have pitched in with hands, money, encouragement, excitement… All of it. Today I am basking in all and truly feel like I might just explode with love and gratitude….

And now, since I have neglected to post anything on the tiny house since winter here is a little photographic journey to bring you up to speed!

The first days of spring... John knew what his priorities were, and first was a picnic table!

The first days of spring… John knew what his priorities were, and first was a picnic table!

And I got to work, in style :)

And I got to work, in style :)


My first walls starts coming together!

And before I know it I have all four walls framed!

And before I know it I have all four walls framed! (its still early spring- can you tell by the still not fully green grass?)

In the meantime John stayed busy building a glorious little solar shed that now has a solar powered freezer and blender (smoothies!!!) and is precious shade during our work days :)

In the meantime John stayed busy building a glorious little solar shed that now has a solar powered freezer and blender (smoothies!!!) and is precious shade during our work days :)

And we prepped the site for raising day, building a fire pit, hanging a hammock, and making a place for food, pot luck style...

And we prepped the site for raising day, building a fire pit, hanging a hammock, and making a place for food, pot luck style…

Raising day!! My first wall goes up :) It was the weekend before memorial weekend. May 16th. And my dad drove up all the way from Boston to be a part of it!

Raising day!! My first wall goes up :) It was the weekend before memorial weekend. May 16th. And my dad drove up all the way from Boston to be a part of it!


I was nervous as hell, but apparently for naught, as a great crew showed up and we had a blast!

Some of us ladies, two others in the middle of building their own tiny houses (one also on a trailer like mine, the other a tiny strawbale timber frame!), and another getting ready to make the leap!

Some of us ladies, two others in the middle of building their own tiny houses (one also on a trailer like mine, the other a tiny strawbale timber frame!), and another getting ready to make the leap!

Teamwork gets the job done :)

Teamwork gets the job done :)

And the AMAZIN crew after all four walls were up and the structured covered to protect it from rain!

And the AMAZING crew (a few missing who had to leave early…) after all four walls were up and the structure covered to protect it from rain!

Now it was tarp city until we got the roof framed and covered... This would be a bit of a project, but John worked carefully and diligently with me, getting the ridge pole in place so then I could set the rafters in.

Now it was tarp city until we got the roof framed and covered… This would be a bit of a project, but John worked carefully and diligently with me, getting the ridge pole in place so then I could set the rafters in mostly on my own.

Ah, sheathing starting to go on (which means soon no more tarp!) and blue sky through the rafters  :-)

Ah, sheathing starting to go on (which means soon no more tarp!) and blue sky through the rafters :-)

And there she is!! This past saturday, fully sheathed in, joints all taped (well this photo is actually taken before the wall joints got taped) and windows cut out!!

And there she is!! This past saturday, fully sheathed in, joints all taped (well this photo is actually taken before the wall joints got taped) and windows cut out!!

And me as Happy as can BE!!

And me as Happy as can BE!!

And now it is all wrapped up again in house wrap (we finished around 8:30pm on Sunday). It is what I call another awkward teenager stage, so I decided to have some compassion and spare it the embarrassment of photos :-P But I’ll let you imagine, and hopefully it won’t be over six months before I write my next tiny house post :-) But I have to say, it is kind of cool to see all the progress at once!


Its been almost ten years since I have been to Japan with my mother. I was in high school last we were there together. Not even a legal adult. Since then we have gone separately, my mom almost every summer for at least a few weeks in June and me once with my freshman college year roommate, who had studied Japanese, and then again after graduating from college. But there is something different and special about going with your mom, sharing the experience together, being able to lean on her when certain words and phrases get lost in translation, seeing her in the culture she grew up in, feeling the thread that runs from me to her and through our ancestors back to this ancient and beautiful culture. My soul had been craving all of this for some time now, but life had seemed too busy to make it happen for at least another year.

Three generation of Oseki Women: Me, my Mom, and My Grandma (Miwa, Iku, and Takako)

Three generations of Oseki Women: Me, my mom, and my grandma (Miwa, Iku, and Takako)

But then my grandfather, Jiji, started to show signs of Alzheimers and Dementia. And reports coming through my grandmother and aunt started to sound distressed. He was sleeping through much of the days and losing interest in his food. And some days he was unsteady on his feet. They were finding some support through a day service that they would send Jiji to twice a week, where they would bathe him and do some simple activities with him, but things did not sound too good. Eventually my grandma said to my mom, “I think you should come” and so she moved up her annual trip, leaving before her school let out to go support her family.

Traveling an Ocean

As I listened from afar to what was happening I started to realize Jiji’s time of transition might be near. And even if his physical body held out for a while yet, he may soon no longer recognize me or be someone who I really recognized. I realized I wanted to go too. And I wanted to go soon. The time I had been hoping for, to spend with my mom in Japan with Jiji, Baba, and Hiroko (my grandpa, grandma, and aunt) might have to be now or never.

And so I made it happen. And I am so glad I did. My mom was hesitant at first, saying, understandably, that she wasn’t sure she could be a mom to me and a daughter possibly losing her father at the same time. She wanted me to wait until she arrived in Japan to see how things were once she was actually there, before I bought my plane ticket. I waited. But I knew I wanted to go. And once she got there and I got the ok, and went ahead with my plans.

As I made the more than 12 hour flight to Japan I felt memories rush back as I watched parents, many of whom were one Japanese and one American, like my own, speaking to their mixed race children. My soul recognized the Japanese phrases my mom used with me, and little girls and boys that looked like they could have been my siblings stirred something deep inside. My own reservoirs of Japanese language started to flood back.

This would be the beginning of a trip filled with many ordinary but precious moments; Moments that I will cherish forever.


Arriving at my grandparents I slipped my shoes off, as we do in all Japanese houses, and gave my grandma, aunt and Jiji a hug. Dinner was ready, of course, a wonderful Japanese style meal, with each person having at least four small plates; A bowl for rice, a bowl for Miso-shiru (miso soup), a plate for salad or vegetables, and another one for maybe some meat or fish and then maybe a fifth small plate for soy sauce or other sauces. Tonight we had some yaki-tori, which is skewers of small pieces of different kinds of meat and some vegetables. It was all delicious.

After dinner I pulled out the few small gifts I had brought them- My theme for gifts was all local and made in Ithaca. A little Ithaca made keychain for my aunt, and an Ithaca made acorn designs notebook for my grandma, and some local honeyed covered nuts for my grandpa as well as some pancake mix that I would turn into pancakes for my grandpa a few days later.

I was jet lagged and tired but glad to be there.

Kanpai! (Cheers!)

My third morning, mostly recovered from jet lag, I made some American style pancakes for Jiji, and my mom made us all some green smoothies. And we toasted. I was glad to be there.


Some days we laughed. One day we started laughing so hard at dinner we could barely eat. It all started with a “tobi kyuuri,” or a flying cucumber and only got worse as Jiji earnestly asked if he had to pay for the meal or if it really was free. By the end who knows what we were really laughing at. I say it was the flying cucumber and my mom and grandma say it was Jiji and Hiroko says she was laughing at us. But we all laughed and it was good.


Bracko is a card game I have played since I was too small to hold all my cards in my little hands. They learned it in Brazil and brought it back with them to Japan. My mom made me a clever little card holder out of cardboard to help me hold the cards. And then when I got old enough to think I didn’t need that anymore I would lay some of my cards on the ground under the table when they got to be too many for me to hold. We always played at a low table and I would sit on the ground.

Now I hold the cards for Jiji as we play as one person. Some nights he would get frustrated that he doesn’t understand what is going on, saying that this was the last  time he would ever play. But the next day he would say, “Trampu yaro ka?” (Shall we play cards?). And most days he seemed happy to be at the table, occasionally having a particularly lucid moment where he would point to a card and show me where it went.


With both our sets of hands we were quite an effective team!


And cards always makes us laugh


Japanese flower arrangements are famous. But I don’t think I have ever seen my grandfather do one, and I don’t know if he ever would have before. But when that was the activity at his day program he came home with a beautiful flower arrangement and we all admired it.


Kirei na! (pretty, isn’t it?)

Smile for the camera! (mu heart lights up at that smile of his)

Smile for the camera! (my heart lights up at that smile of his)

Ancestors and Memories

Some days, when Jiji was at his day program, we would go into his room and clean and organize. Today we dusted off his buddhist shrine to his ancestors.


I found a carefully folded piece of paper with the dates on which his ancestors passed was recorded, it looked like going back maybe three generations. My mom said on the anniversaries of those days he would light incense and candles and put fresh flowers on the shrine to honor them. I remember some days when I was young helping him with this. There were also little wooden placards for each of the ancestors buried in his family burial plot, with a few still blank. I know that one day one of these blank wooden placards will have his name on it when he goes to rest in his family plot.

My grandfather was a great Go player and I also found in his room many of his trophies won from Go tournaments. Until recently he would go to the local library where he would volunteer and teach the next generation of Go players.


He also kept a daily diary for many many years and my mom found two boxes full of these precious writings! I can’t read or write Japanese now but seeing all those diaries gave me motivation to one day be able to. Although my mom says they mostly are probably just documenting what he ate for each meal, I can feel the love and care in them, all carefully kept and written in his careful writing. He was also quite good at calligraphy, and I have memories of doing that with him too as a child.

The women of the household

Being there was special, not just to spend time with my grandfather but also to spend time with my mom, aunt, and grandma. I could feel the strength of their bond and the steadiness of their presence. And I remembered deep in my soul that Japan is deep in me.

Hiroko is almost like a sister to me. We laugh and play together. I drag her to the local public pool to swim with me and makes fun of how I say things funny in Japanese.


Baba always showers me with lots of delicious and nutritious food. And of course, the occasional no so nutritious, but still delicious treats


Laughing as the three of us dig into a Matcha ice cream together


This time with family was truly precious in ways that feel hard to capture in words. But maybe some of what I cannot say is captures in these photos filled with love


I left with a heart expanded and full of gratitude. Who knows what the circumstances of my next visit will be, but I know I will cherish these memories forever. As my mom and Hiroko wished me well they left me with one last smile from the bus window:


Apparently it is a joke from a childhood cartoon of theirs. To see these two grown woman doing this on the sidewalk of Japan as a bus full of airport bound people watched… You had to be there.

Back Stateside

As I settle back into life here in Ithaca I continue to process and cherish my trip. The first few days english felt strange in my mouth, as certain phrases in particular would come to me first in japanese. Already I feel some of the language leaving me, or going into hibernation until I need it next, but I feel myself holding on it, as this time in particular, I feet like I appreciated every sound of this beautiful language just a little more. The song-like open vowel sounds, the way it brings back memories of my childhood for me, and the nurturing energy of my mom and all the women who helped to make her who she is today.  I feel a renewed commitment within myself to not lose touch with my Japanese heritage. I desire to keep going back to that country, even when I may no longer have living family there. I feel like I am more aware than ever of the power of those ancestors that stand behind me and beside me and in front of me, as my life is a reflection of them.

Here in Ithaca, NY winter feels as though it has definitely arrived. We have snow on the ground and temperatures stayed below freezing sometimes dropping into the single digits for most of last week. With that being the case I have only gone out to check on my tiny house but have not done any work on the windy, exposed site. But my hoop house seems to be working well, sheltering my floor from the snow and keeping things protected until it warms up again.

Last weekend I did start drawing out to scale framing plans for the walls and hope to do a lot more planning through the winter months. Already some things have shifted, like the placement of my fridge, which changes the placement of my sink and my window… And it is making me think it might be worth taking the time to teach myself google sketch-up rather than drawing the plans by hand, where things are much harder to change without starting over.

I also completed my third week working as an employee of Hammerstone School, which is a lot of fun and is definitely keeping me busy! We had a basic carpentry class on November 14th and 15th with ten awesome women and each one built a pair of saw horses to take home with them. It was really cool to step into the role of teacher and share some of what I have learned. And to hear the students enthusiasm and appreciation for all the knowledge!

Beware, women at work

Beware, women at work.

Then this week a timber frame apprentice from Hawk Circle named Emma Appleton joined us and we just about finished cutting the frame for a small barn!

As you can see, we are working in an unheated barn so it is a bit chilly! Best to keep moving to stay warm! But at least we have some shelter from the wind and snow.

As you can see, we are working in an unheated barn so it is a bit chilly! Best to keep moving to stay warm! But at least we have some shelter from the wind and snow.

Emma hard at work. Must have been a bit warmer that day :-)

Emma hard at work. Must have been a bit warmer that day :-)

Emma was a lot of fun and taught us some brilliant new words (she is from England) my favorite of which was ear defenders!

We are hoping to have an all women’s timber frame raising sometime in the first half of December (date TBD). This could very well be a historical event as Maria, Emma, or myself have never been at a raising of only women! It is not that we are anti men but more that we want to give women the chance to fully participate. We are thinking men will be allowed to come and support by providing food and childcare, as truth be told this is often what the women end up getting sucked into, whether they want to or not!

So, not too much progress on the tiny house, other than drawing out some plans and having a fridge buying adventure at home depot (I bought a cute high efficiency 10 cubic foot fridge only to find out it required 5″ of clearance on both sides and in back for ventilation! So we returned it today and a different, slightly larger 14 cubic foot energy star fridge will be being delivered on december 8th), but definitely been keeping busy with other things building related!

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