Search This Blog

Tuesday, June 30, 2015


Aloha Everyone,

The ocarina is a wind musical instrument that can be traced back to over 10,000 years. Historical existence of this simple instrument are found in Central and South American and Asian cultures.

In Japan, ocarina is known as "tsuchibue" (earthen flute) meaning the instrument is made of clay.

Ocarinas come in different sizes and shapes. Generally, the instrument has an enclosed space, 4 to 12 holes and the part where you blow into or the mouth piece.
12 hole ocarina

Ocarinas are usually made of clay and breakable. Other materials such as glass, metal, wood and plastic may be used.  During our travel to Central and South America, I occasionally saw ocarinas being sold in the local open market that are made of animal bones.
An ocarina from Columbia

The Legend of Zelda series, by Nintendo systems helped popularized ocarina music by using them for their theme songs.

I have 2 ocarinas. My level of playing is still at the very beginning stage. I hope to be able to learn some Christmas carols so I can play duet with our granddaughter.

Aloha -- Cathi

Monday, June 29, 2015

Happy 8th Birthday to our Granddaughter!

Aloha Everyone,

My Mother, J.J. and I are in San Diego to celebrate our granddaughter's 8th birthday. My Mother has a total of 5 great-grandchildren but only one of them is a girl.

As requested by the birthday celebrant, we had an early picnic gathering at the neighborhood park with two of their close family friends.

Watching five little girls at play, and observing my Mother interacting with the girls was priceless.

Aloha -- Cathi

Sunday, June 28, 2015


Aloha Everyone,

Origami is a fun, simple and portable activity. Made up with two Japanese words, origami literally translates as "to fold" (ori) and "paper" (kami).

Origami is simple, enjoyable activity and the packet of origami paper cost anywhere from $1.50 to $5.00.  Many comes with instructions on how to make your own creations.

I usually carry a few sheets of origami paper with my sketch pad. When occasion warrants, I fold a sheet of paper and transform it into animal, bird, box or more complex time-consuming creatures with as many as 100 folds such as brontosaurus or tortoise.

The origami paper comes in all sort of quality, sizes and designs.  However basic origami paper is square and should be strong enough but easily foldable.

It's a simple yet joyful activity which you can do alone or as a group project. I especially find it fun to transform a square sheet of paper into something total unexpected for a small child.

Aloha -- Cathi

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Japanese Cultural Institute (JCI) Carnival

Aloha Everyone,

Today was the opening day of the 2015 Carnival at Japanese Cultural Institute in Gardena, California.

Over the past 30 years, my Mother has been volunteering every Friday at Gardena Valley JCI to teach music.  

The Gardena Valley JCI offers many children and adult programs. The once a year carnival is a fund-raising event. Tickets denominated $1 are pre-sold including to volunteers like my Mother to insure that the center will receive a sufficient amount of donations. 

There were at least 15 different food stalls with professional chefs or restaurant owners who were volunteering their time. J.J. went for Hawaiian Laulau which he said was authentic. My Mother and I chose udon (wheat noodle) in soup. Just as Dark Sky app on my iPhone predicted. It started to rain when we finish paying for our food so we decided to come back home to eat.

This afternoon, my sister is taking two of her younger grandsons to the carnival to play games.

Aloha -- Cathi

Friday, June 26, 2015

Dokudami, (Japanese) 蕺草, "Poison Bocking Plant"

Aloha Everyone,

My Mother has been making and using her own skin lotion with dokudami. According to my mother, this "poison blocking plant" is the reason for her clear skin.

Houttuynia cordata (scientific name) is also known as lizard tail, fish wort, bishop's weed or chameleon plant. It is also known as heartleaf because individual leaf is shaped like a heart.

The plant is native to Japan, Korea, China and some parts of the Southern Asia. My Mother grows them under the shade of the fruits trees in her garden.

My Mother goes through a complicated process starting with harvesting the leaves of the plant, rinsing them several times with tap water to remove any impurities. She then dries the leaves by pressing then between paper towels for several hours.

Next, she stuffs the leaves in a disinfected empty bottle of Shochu (distilled barley). About a tablespoon of Shochu is added to the bottle containing the leaves. From there, she lets the plant to dissolve naturally occasionally she uses a long stick to stir and compresses the leaves.

The final step is to strain the liquid using cheese cloth until the liquid is clear.

The liquid has a slight odor of ocean, but if it gives me a clear skin like my Mother, I am willing to give it a try.

Dokudami tea, which my mother also makes and drinks is palatable if it is mixed with high quality green powder tea.

Aloha -- Cathi

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Hanging Out With My Sister Irene, and Meeting Trish

Aloha Everyone,

My sister, Irene, took me to Costco, FedEx and finally to Target this morning. Our mission was to find a place where they can make wallet size color prints from the flash drive.

Trish, a 2nd grade teacher at Chapman Elementary School stepped into my life and willingly spent about 10 minutes or so showing me how to operate the automatic "do it yourself" photo printing machine.

Thank you, Trish, for your kindness and assistance.

"Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings."
--William Arthur Ward

Aloha -- Cathi

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Matsui, Japanese Restaurant

Aloha Everyone,

J.J. and I decided to take advantage of being in the South Bay neighborhood of Los Angeles where there are many Asian restaurants offering authentic cuisine of their country.

My Mother had mentioned Matsui as a great restaurant that serves traditional Japanese fine dining at a reasonable price.

We arrived at 11:30 am and at least 50% of the tables were occupied with mostly business clientele.

J.J. and I both decided on today's special lunch consisting of a plate of 4 pcs of sushi which J.J. enjoyed, a small plate of mixed green salad with Oriental dressing, a large prawn and assorted vegetable tempura, plus choice of udon (wheat noodle) or soba (noodle made of buckwheat) served ether hot or cold.

The lunch set was artfully presented and the individual dishes were professionally prepared. Our total bill came out to $30 inclusive of tip.

J.J. has already spotted a Korean restaurant for our next dining adventure.

Aloha -- Cathi

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Nightingale in my Mother's Garden

Aloha Everyone

A nightingale has made a nest in one of the trees in my Mother's garden.  He is small, grayish in color but his plain looks is rather deceiving.

I first noticed this songbird's presence last May when we returned to my Mother's home. I heard a bird song followed by another very different song. Then the second was followed by yet another, until I counted up to 7 different melodies. Curious, I went outside to look, as it sounded like at least 3-4 different birds were singing in chorus. This went on for a couple of days. Then I heard the singing at night. By that time, I was determined to look for the song birds.

Nightingale's singing is particularly melodic as the sun is breaking early morning or at the hours of dusk. Many people may ignore these birds sighting until one begins to sing.

Nightingales have inspired Aristotle, the Greek philosopher to compose poems on the sights and sounds of the the bird. William Shakespeare, John Keats, and T.S. Eliot also wrote about nightingale.

Some references have been made of male nightingales as jazz musicians. This is because a male nightingale may be able to to have a repertoire up to 300 unique songs.

Now that I learned a little more about this interesting songbird, I am looking forward to listening and enjoying a full selection of melodies our visitor may perform for us.

Aloha -- Cathi

Monday, June 22, 2015

Innovation Board Game

Aloha Everyone,

I love board games, or any type of activity that can help bring the family together. One of our current favorite board games is Innovation.

The game is essentially a journey from the stone age through modern times through various innovations. Each player builds a civilization based on various technologies, ideas, and cultural advancements, all represented by cards. Each of these cards has a unique power which will allow further advancement, point scoring, or even attacking other civilizations.

Aloha -- Cathi

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Hillcrest Farmer's Market

Aloha Everyone,

Hillcrest is located in northwest of Balboa Park and south of Mission Valley.

Every Sunday, the Hillcrest Farmer's Market is set up with about 175 vendors. This morning J.J. and I went with our daughter-in-law and granddaughter. We parked the car and rode on a free Hillcrest Trolley. It took us about 10 minutes to get to the farmer's market site.

This is one of the biggest and most ethnically diverse farmers markets J.J. and I have visited in the United States so far. There were locally grown vegetables and fruits stands, freshly baked bread and sweets, nuts and coffee. We even saw fresh sea food including such oddity as sea urchin.

There were also numerous vendors offering prepared foods that are served hot. Many were very enticing that it was difficult to decide on what we would like to eat.
If one did not have an appetite for eating, then there were vendors selling arts and crafts. They even had live musical entertainment.

The Nine Whole Grains bread made by Charlie's Best Bread we purchased from Austin is tasty and sumptuous. It is heavy and dense, the way good "homemade" bread should be

Jessica was offering bite size samples of Rickaroons, healthy, 100% vegan sweet.

From Jeanluc, we purchased authentic French croissant. Jeanluc told us that he misses his hometown, Paris, when he is in San Diego, but longs for San Diego when he is back in Paris.
A few hours we spent was not enough time to see and appreciate everything the farmers market has to offer. By noon, it was crowded and there were at least 2-3 layers of customers at most of the popular booths. 
If you are in the San Diego neighborhood, I highly recommend at least to spend one Sunday morning.
Aloha -- Cathi