Yumiko Sekine, author of Simplicity at Home, grew up in northern Japan, learning traditional crafts and quilting from her mother and grandmother. Just as I did growing up in rural Pennsylvania, Yumiko appreciated quilting and hand-crafts. She still does, and so do I.



Finding new uses for scraps of fabric saves money and demonstrates the beauty in things that are slightly imperfect.


One of her designs reflects the motif in my new memoir, My Checkered Life.




Her idea for holiday decor: “For Christmas, I like to hang little wreaths around the house. I make my own, using evergreen branches, from my garden, a scarf hanger, and a small ornament. I make several at a time and give them as gift.” Yumiko attaches greenery to the hanger (you can bend a wire hanger into a circle) using twine or strong thread, then adds an ornament in the middle.


Repairing broken dishes, finding new uses for scraps of fabric, and dying stained clothes are examples of a kind of resourcefulness that not only saves money but also demonstrates the beauty in things that are slightly imperfect. Many of these ideas are inspired by Japanese traditions, but they work equally well in the West.

Author and Crafter Sekine suggests that the home arts of an Asian culture can blend well with those from North and South America and also Europe.



The topic of my next memoir My Checkered Life: a Marriage Memoir suggests a blending of two cultures: my husband Cliff’s from the West Coast, cities in Washington state and California, and mine from the East Coast, a Mennonite in rural Pennsylvania. The stories also hint at possible conflict–even clashes!

Excerpt from My Checkered Life, “Heritage”


I finally met my husband’s mother just days before our wedding. “Ooh, this is positively beautiful,” she said, as her hand caressed the satiny skirt of the wedding gown I had fashioned by hand. I knew immediately she approved of me but she cautioned, “You and Cliff may have quite a time adjusting to married life.” She used the direct approach and didn’t mince words about the huge difference obvious in our backgrounds: Her son was a Westerner used to city life, and I, his bride, a woman from the east coast with a rural Mennonite upbringing. I knew she cared about how we would fare, but I heard caution in her words.


For the wedding service, we had picked the hymn “In Christ there is no East or West,” with lyrics that continue, “in Him no North or South, but one great fellowship of love throughout the whole wide earth.” The words expressed my intention and hope, but as a starry-eyed bride, I had not lived them yet, nor had they been tested.


The first days of our honeymoon, camping in the Smoky Mountains, highlighted our differences:

Mom and Dad Beamans’ wedding gift to us was a gas credit card and the use of their red Ford pickup truck with a white topper. The topper, a fiberglass canopy covering the pickup’s rear bed, supplied a raised mattress for sleeping and storing suitcases and camping gear, a Coleman lantern, ice chest, and stove.


Honeymooning and hiking suck the energy out of you, especially if you can’t get a decent night’s sleep. We were, after all, in the mountains, the camper parked on an incline. It was hard to find a level spot to park the camper. And we moved almost every day. I realized I had married a true pioneer, an explorer. “What’s on the other side of this mountain?” he wondered. His ancestors must have ridden across the continent, bouncing along in stagecoaches more than a century ago, filled with wanderlust, shouting “Giddyap!” I would have been content to stay two or three days at the same site. But, no, “Let’s go to Clingman’s Dome tomorrow. It’s over 6600 feet high. We’d have our heads in the clouds!”


My head wasn’t in the clouds anymore. Being married to a super-energetic guy was going to be work. It was hard to keep up. We did scale part of Clingman’s Dome, and I have a picture of my husband leaning against a brown forestry sign at the top, the observation deck at the summit. He actually did look tired too. Leaning slack against the sign, it appeared as though one of the wooden posts was holding him up. But not tired enough to slow the pace.


The clash of the cultures had begun. A young wife whose only experience of camping was Laurelville Mennonite Camp with cabins and a dining hall serving food cafeteria-style was matched with a man whose family exuberantly camped in the wild. In tents. With a gas stove and a Coleman lantern, roughing it.


Carefree Cliff, college senior


Out  the  In  door


Does Asian decor appeal to you?

How have you had to adapt to a different culture? Adjust to differences in a friend or loved one?