Courage – A Canadian Farewell

I found this kimono on eBay a few weeks back and fell in loved with it. Last thing I need is another tiny kurotomesode, but it was too beautiful to let it escape and my folks said it could be my birthday present from them, so I took the plunge. It arrived yesterday and it was more gorgeous in person than I could have imagined, the auction photos did it no justice. So I knew right away that I was going to do something with it today, on my day off. My initial plan was to do a fairly straightforward traditional kitsuke, with a formal obi with lots of metallic, white accessories, something clean and simple.

All that went out the window this morning, when I woke up to the news that Gord Downie had passed away. He was the frontman for a group that nearly all Canadians are familiar with, the Tragically Hip. He was diagnosed with glioblastoma just over a year ago, and rather than withdraw from the public eye, he fought back with everything he could. The band went on one last tour, big and loud and loving. He continued to work tirelessly for justice and equality, speaking loudly for Canadians whose voices had been silenced over the years. Everyone knew he didn’t have long for the world, but he filled that time with so much love and passion and brightness that it still hurts enormously. All day I’ve seen people whose jobs require them to be professional and detached (news anchors, radio announcers, even our Prime Minister) lose their composure and break down while talking about Gord.

What does all this have to do with my kimono? Well, as you may have noticed I have a strange coping mechanism of coordinating outfits to deal with grief. Maybe it’s not the healthiest thing, but it works for me. So to deal with this, I decided to throw caution and tradition to the wind and coordinate it in a bright and bold way that makes me happy. I’d like to think that someone who wore brightly coloured holographic suits and fantastic hats during his farewell tour would appreciate that. A vintage chuuya obi with maple leaves felt appropriate for someone who took so much pride in his Canadian heritage, and the accessories brought a vibrant punch to the outfit.

I’ll leave you with some of the lyrics from Courage (for Hugh MacLennan), one of my favourite songs of theirs.

So there’s no simple explanation
For anything important any of us do
And yeah the human tragedy
Consists in the necessity
Of living with the consequences
Under pressure, under pressure.
Courage, my word, it didn’t come, it doesn’t matter,
Courage, it couldn’t come at a worse time.

Harvest Gold

Does anyone remember harvest gold appliances? Thankfully we never had any in my household but we did have an avocado green dishwasher for a very long time! It’s funny how colours go and out of fashion, isn’t it? And how they can look so lovely on a kimono but so ghastly in a kitchen!

This kimono was actually the emergency back-up I purchased for Belle’s outfit, after it seemed like the one I wanted had got lost in the post. Eventually the first one did show up, so I got to use it as I’d planned, but it seemed like quite a shame for this gorgeous vintage piece to languish in storage so I vowed to do something with it today.

My initial plan was a gold obi, but since I wasn’t doing the Belle outfit anymore I figured I had more freedom, but for some reason I had a heck of a time finding a coordination that did the piece justice. Most of my obi were either too flashy and metallic or too dark, and the soft, delicate quality of the yuzen around the hem would have been completely overwhelmed. Then I thought I could use the yellow nagoya obi I used last week but that seemed repetitive and overly monotone. Then I debated an orange hakata and a grey masculine-feeling nagoya that both didn’t quite work either. Then I found this beautiful dusty taupe nagoya with a subtle bit of gold. It perfectly balanced the kimono, pulling out the grey-brown tones of the flower cart and helping anchor it. Simple green accessories and one of the charming new subtle haneri I bought rounded things off.

The outfit feels very soft and elegant to me, stylish in a very understated sort of way that looks fantastic on a mannequin but I could probably never pull off in person! It also feels very seasonal right now, despite having more spring and summer flowers on it. The colours reflect the changing leaves outside, which makes me very happy.

Thanksgiving Ikebana

Here in Canada, Thanksgiving falls on the first Monday of October. In my house, we’ll often invite over a group of friends who don’t have big loud extended families to celebrate with. We go all-in, turkey and stuffing and homemade pumpkin pie. The works.

This year I decided to use what I’ve been learning about ikebana to create a centrepiece for the table, as a way to celebrate Thanksgiving and a way to look back on the recent harvest moon. I wanted to stick to the traditional shin/soe/hikae form in a straightforward moribana-style arrangement, and I wanted something that felt warm, welcoming, and harvest-friendly. The first things I found at the florist’s were some purple thistle flowers and small yellow blossoms that screamed autumn to me. The curly branches came next, adding height and structure to the arrangement, but it still felt lacking. I stepped into the back cold storage where they keep the fillers and unusual items and the ornamental cabbage called out to me. It’s got a great weight to it, totally fits the feel of autumn/harvest, and it even has delicate purple veining that helps echo the spiky thistle blossoms. I tucked the whole thing into a small green vase that nearly disappears under the cabbage, which worked out really well. It’s almost as if I’ve plucked the whole arrangement straight out of the garden. Some warm yellow and orange candles tied the whole thing together, infusing it with even more warmth and welcome feeling.

I have a lot to be thankful for in my life. I am surrounded by family and friends who love me. I have a job I enjoy, and hobbies I love to fulfil me. My health could be better, but it could also certainly be much worse, and I am lucky to live in a place where I don’t have to worry about medical emergencies bankrupting me. Sometimes there are days when I feel like everything is terrible, and I would do well to remind myself how few and far between those days are. The world feels like it’s falling apart sometimes, we’ve all got to take a moment to focus on the good things, wherever they come from. What are you thankful for this season? Please let me know!

Autumn Vintage

As fun as the Disney Princess Kitsuke Project was, I was definitely ready for something a little more straightforward. I lucked into a day off today, so I figured it was high time I did something with this amazing komon I got from Sayumi of Kimono Bijin. It’s a gorgeous vintage piece, really soft silk with a fantastic pattern of shishi and arabesque vines. Unfortunately, it’s also showing its age. A few of the seams are loose, and the lining is quite worn, but it’s so beautiful that it’s easy to overlook those problems. It’s a very tiny piece and I know it would never fit me even if I were to lose half my body weight, so after I take it off the mannequin it’s going to Naomi; she is much smaller than I am and loves all things magenta and teal and vintage and shishi, so I know it will be very loved.

My initial plan was to coordinate it with a black-based obi so all the attention would be on the kimono itself, but that choice felt very safe and a little bit boring. Then I remembered I had this gorgeous gold vintage obi with flowers, particularly some large botan. Shishi and botan are a very traditional pairing and the obi also has a really punchy Taisho/Early Showa feel to it, so I knew I’d found the perfect match. I did gravitate to black for the accessories though, which helps anchor the whole outfit and keep it from feeling too loud or clashy. I think it work

Happy Otsukimi!

Today is Otsukimi (お月見), the autumn full-moon viewing festival! It’s incredibly overcast here and they’re predicting thunder storms all evening so I won’t get to enjoy the moon here. I have some mochi waiting for me at home, thankfully. However, earlier today Kornelia of Kanzashi Yume shared a link to an utterly adorable little mobile game and I had to check it out and share it with you all.

The game is called (unsurprisingly) Otsukimi, and it’s a straightforward brain-teaser game where you have to solve little puzzles in order to escape from a room, but everything is Otsukimi-themed. Plenty of rabbits and mochi for everyone to enjoy, regardless of where you live or whether the moon is visible in your sky. It’s a very sweet, relaxing sort of game. There is no time limit, nothing to frustrate you. Just simple fun puzzles and beautiful graphics. It will take between 10 and 20 minutes, depending on how quickly you solve the puzzles, but you can take as long as you need to. Once you’ve finished the primary objective of escaping the room, you can play a much shorter second mini-game, finding the hidden rabbits in the room. It’s an incredibly sweet and charming little game and I highly recommend it for anyone looking for a nice way to relax and unwind while celebrating the Autumn full moon!

Otsukimi is available on Google Play for Android devices as well as the iOS Store for Apple devices. Please check it out!

The company who developed this, Jammsworks, has many other similar escape games including one called Hakone which takes place in a beautiful Japanese house and garden, and Obon which takes place in a beautiful summery field of sunflowers. You can bet I will be checking those ones out soon as well.