Shinnen Akemashite Omedetou Gozaimasu

The new year (oshogatsu) is particularly important in the Japanese tradition. It represents the chance for a fresh start, with proper preparation, of course. December is spent in purification, cleaning house (osoji), both literally and figuatively, in order to begin the new year with a clean slate, decorating with pine and bamboo kadomatsu for good luck, and sending New Year's postcards (nengajo).

For those interested in learning more about oshogatsu in general, the Japanese American National Museum has a good, but concise description. Wikipedia also has an overview. I could have sworn I wrote a more comprehensive blog entry about oshogatsu a few years ago, but I can't find it!
Kinpira, gobo (burdock root) and carrot
I julienne them with a knife, because food processors make the pieces too small

The final days of the year are spent cooking food with special significance with regard to health, longevity, prosperity and fertility (osechi) so the first few days of the new year can be spent with family. Some descriptions of osechi can be found at bento.com or norecipes.com and Yuka Yamaguchi also has a few recipes on her blog. Even though I can buy osechi at the local Japanese grocer, I still make my own. Since this is the only tradition I really observe, I figure I should do it correctly. Plus, the stuff is expensive!
Nishime in one of Grandma's Imari dishes
Includes renkon (lotus root), gobo (burdock root), 
takenoko (bamboo shoot), konnyaku (potato starch)

As you know, this year, actually the last two years, have not been the best, financially, socially, emotionally. I even lost a cherished friend, who brought only kindness to the table when all I brought was drama. I knew I was being unreasonable, but couldn't help myself. It is in my nature to push those I care about away from me and completely alienate them. I wrote recently about how people move in and out of our lives, but what I didn't mention is that those who leave due to our own foolishness hurt the most.

The last two years I've strayed from the tradition of opening my house during Oshogatsu. Maybe beginning the year on the wrong foot jinxed me. On top of that, one month after the current year began I turned 43 and thus began the 44th year of my life. 4 is bad luck in Asian cultures that have been influenced by the Chinese, because it is a homophone for death. 44 must be doubly bad.

As December ticks down to the new year I hope to begin it on the right foot, just in case. I am currently making much-needed repairs on the house, organizing bills to be paid before year's end, gathering my house cleaning supplies, prepping my cookware and shopping lists, and making sure the tv works for my grousing dad, so that I can start the year with a clean slate and focus on spending time with my family and closest friends during Oshogatsu. And of course, as a hedge, one month later, I'll be beginning the 45th year here.


An Honest Scrap

It has been awhile since Olivia, that Rebel with a Blog, gifted me with the:

Honest Scrap

I am touched that she thought of me, and at the same time, at a bit of a loss for words. It's funny how easy it is to bare all in a standard blog post, but when someone asks you to share ten things about yourself, thoughts elude. I believe I am to reveal ten things about myself...

 1. I am naturally right-side dominant, but functionally ambidextrous because I'm lazy. When I was little I used whichever hand was closest to whatever I wanted to use. Okay, I still do that.

 2. My parents taught me too well the lesson that the only one I can truly depend on through thick and thin is myself, so I often self-fulfill that prophecy. My close friends are those who have seen me at my worst and still stayed around to support me. There are very few of them. In fact, I can count them on one hand and still have fingers left over. That's how bad I am.

 3. I have battled low self-esteem for as long as I can remember. Oddly enough, I also have high self-efficacy. This means that I don't think very much of myself in spite of the fact that I am confident in my ability to accomplish things. Yes, I think there's some relation between this and #2, too.

 4. I am often lonely, even when surrounded by people.

 5. I am painfully shy, and when I walk into a room full of complete strangers I have to force myself to smile and mingle. Sometimes I even feel that way when I walk into a room full of people I know.  I usually seek out other people who look uncomfortable, too.

 6. My grandparents' house overflows with family treasures and good memories, but I've always been happiest when I lived away from home in uncluttered surroundings.

 7. I used to dream about climbing K2 when I was younger, but the older I get the more averse I become to cold weather.

 8. The best moments of my life have occured when I shared the gift of time with someone special. Nothing elaborate, maybe a simple meal, some walking, and a lot of conversation.

 9. I always fall hardest for men I can't have. See #2 and 3.

10. I'm not a big eater, but I do appreciate good food. If I only eat half my meal but carefully store the leftovers, it means I really enjoyed it. If I generously share the bulk of my meal with my dog, I wasn't such a big fan.

I am supposed to pass the award on, however, I have such a limited number of people I follow that I'd be passing awards to the same people over and over and everyone would hate me. So instead I will say please feel free to peruse my reading list. Everyone there posts content that I enjoy in one form or another -- they are there for good reason.