Sunday, September 30, 2007

Tomihiro Hoshino

Yesterday I joined a few church members and went with them to visit a museum and attend an outdoor concert. We had a wonderful time but it was COLD! The day before I'd had to open all the windows because it was so hot but yesterday I misjudged the weather and was in a thin summer shirt. I about froze!

The museum is in the wilds of a mountain area and surrounded by fields, mountains, streams and a lake. The area had once been a booming copper mining town but now it is has a ghost town feel about it except for this wonderful museum over looking the mountains. Here, the trees were already beginning to change into fall colors and the beauty was inspiring.

Why on earth would there be a museum in such a far off place? Two reasons. One because the artist lives not far from the museum and he chose to build the museum in the area he loves so much. And two, because the artist takes joy in painting the beautiful colors and delicateness of the grasses and flowers and leaves around him.

The artist's name is Tomihiro Hoshino and he is one of the more famous living artists in Japan and many people have heard of him internationally. He is a mouth artist who was injured in a gymnastics accident in 1970. He later became Christian and he leads a quiet life painting and writing poetry. I have been to the museum before but yesterday there was a gospel artist who performed Tomihiro-san's poems set to music thus a double attraction to attend. And to all the delight of the audience, Tomihiro-san and his wife also attended the concert so we caught a glimpse of them.

Tomihiro-san's art is so beautiful. He mostly paints in water colors though he has pen and ink sketches too. I think his wife whom he met and married after his accident helps him daily by mixing colors for him and applying the paint to the brush. He paints lying down though he has a wheelchair that he controls with his chin.

I have bought many of Tomihiro-san's postcards and calendars in the past and this is one of my favorites.


A tree can't move around for itself.

It tries hard to reach out its branches and to stretch as far as it can grow in its God-given place.

I regard such a tree as my friend.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Chaotic sewing

I really love Fridays! This year I seem to have scheduled myself so I that I'm off at work early on Friday morning and I can get back home by about 1:00 and nothing else is scheduled for the rest of the day! This means I can sew or take Choco for a long walk or sew or clean the house or sew. SEW, you know what I did yesterday!

I've been working on Tonya's class' quilt and though I'm getting a lot made I still don't know what it is. I just kept making letters yesterday and putting them together into phrases. I need to get some direction but I'm still just making odd blocks and shapes.

And look at the state of the sewing room! Making letters just meant turning my scrap and string tub upside down and grabbing from there. You'd think with all the letters I made that I wouldn't have so many scraps to put back in the tub but they still occupy the full capacity of the tub (I guess that means I'd squeezed them in before). Tetsu took one look at the room and said,

"What are you doing in here? How many quilts are you working on at one time? Three? (He could see one on the wall, one on the floor and another arranged on the bed.)

"Umm. Actually four. There's another one under that box."  

I really think I aimed too high this month. I've got to get the quilt under the box back into action but that will just add to the confusion. But it's so much fun and I guess everyone knows I have a hard time concentrating on one thing!

And look what someone just handed me yesterday when I was at the kindergarten! A bolt of light green cotton fabric! I can't think of a thing that I'm going to do with it but would I be crazy enough to turn down free fabric! Nope. There is a lot of yardage there for little 'ol me and I have a feeling that it may outlive me. Either that or all my quilt backings may be light green for the next few years. (But that's no fun is it!)

Friday, September 28, 2007

Names and Characters

Sometimes I wonder what my husband was thinking when he named Leiya.

In Japan, parents choose a child's name because of the sound, depending on the meaning of the characters and often because of what luck the number of strokes used to write the name will bring. When we were choosing our children's names, we spent a lot of time considering the ease of pronunciation for friends and family in both America and Japan. Once we'd decided on the "sound" of the name, we started thinking about meanings that could be applied depending on which Japanese/Chinese character was used. We gave no thought at all to fortune and what were lucky or unlucky numbers.

Tetsu made the final decision in naming our children. We knew that we were having a boy when I was pregnant with Takumi so Tetsu had gone through a list of names and had decided upon one. He seemed to think that for a boy, only one character was very important. When Takumi was born however, Tetsu took one look at the baby and declared that Takumi looked nothing like the chosen name. Instead a new name was suddenly presented to me and I was happy either way and so Takumi was named thus. "Takumi" means "skillful" and the nuance is skillful as in carpentry (Jesus was a carpenter, right?). This is how we write Takumi's name in Japanese/Chinese characters. I can write Takumi's name fairly easily.

Then when Leiya was born, I pretty much decided the sound of the name for her and Tetsu started thinking of characters again. He chose two characters which mean "Beauty, lovely" and "Jesus". Wonderful. The sound is nice to the ears and it has a very nice meaning. BUT..... This is the way you write it!

Leiya's name has 28 strokes to it!!! Even by Japanese standards these are extremely difficult Chinese characters and the poor child wasn't even able to write her own name until she was in about 4th grade! Not to mention me, her American mother! She's 18 years old now and I still can't write the fool thing!

I remember when Leiya was first born and my mom was visiting. We had to take the baby for a check-up and I was asked to write her name. No way!

"I'm sorry, I can't write my child's name."

The nurse looked at my mother (remember, she's Japanese-American) and said "Oh, then Grandma can write it."

My mom backed off and said " Don't look at me!"

This is the way it's been for the last 18 years and I don't know if I'll ever be able to write it correctly.

And this by the way is our last name! Makes you wonder why I agreed to marry Tetsu in the first place!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Traffic safety again

This week is "Traffic Safety Week" and I put on my little banner and went out to direct traffic again for an hour. Our little neighborhood section also acquired a "traffic tent", for what purpose I'm not sure, maybe to make us more visible to the passing cars, so we had to take a picture to prove that we were really making good use of the tent. I'm not in this picture (I'm the one photographing) but I figure since the traffic group took a lot of pictures for their pamphlets and reports, then it is ok to post this picture on my blog without asking their permission. (Do any of you have opinions about what pictures need to have permission to be posted?) Notice the matching jackets we all have. The pink ones are for the official women's group (I was given a yellow one. I'm not an official woman!?) and the backs of theirs says "We are committed to not driving while drinking!"

Then yesterday when at the grocery store in the city, I came across a "Traffic Safety" group giving a demonstration on how important it is to wear seat belts. They were flagging down people going in to the store and asking for volunteers to try out their seat belt-crash machine. Yes, that is me in their machine (it is not a roller coaster at an amusement park) and yes, I had my camera with me and asked them to take my picture. I'm not the least shy about volunteering for these things so I jumped right in, got in the front seat and waited until they could get someone else to join me. They could only round up one other lady ("Oh no, not with the foreigner!") I just let out the brake, the machine crawled a few inches down a ramp and made an abrupt stop. Automatic airbags blew up in my face and everyone gave us a round of applause (quite a gallery of people watching by this time). Supposedly the machine was demonstrating the impact of a car that crashes when going at 5 kilos an hour. Ah well, it was an experience. For our enthusiastic participation, the other lady and I were given pamphlets, reflectors, chewing gum, wet tissues and a "WEAR YOUR SEAT BELT" sticker.

Drive carefully everyone!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Fabric and Shipping

I wanted to show you some fabric I ordered from Thousands of Bolts. I have bought yardage from them three or four times now and I love the choices they offer and their great prices! Look at the gorgeous blues I found! I'm planning to use these with the Feathered Star blocks I've made. I just fell in love with the pink floral and that will go in my stash to admire for awhile.

I have a couple of dilemmas when it comes to buying fabric. One, I have a hard time buying fabric for myself. What I mean is that I can go to a fabric store with a friend and we start thinking about combinations etc. and I can tell the friend quite easily "You should buy that one." "That fabric doesn't go with the others." "Definitely go for this fabric, the others don't compare." You would think that since I can be so decisive about other people's quilting endeavors, that I wouldn't have any problems making decisions for myself, but actually I'm quite wishy-washy when it comes to my own quilts.

This problem is multiplied when I start using the Internet to look for fabric. So many choices and dang-it-all, you can't just lay your block down on the website fabric and see how it looks together so the choosing process takes longer and I probably spend a good couple of hours on the computer over three or four days trying to make a decision. This time I think I chose pretty well, but I guess we won't know until I've made the quilt.

The other dilemma is the price. The price is wonderful. $3.90 to $4.35 a yard for the fabrics I chose. Amazing! In Japan the average price for a meter of fabric (about the same as a yard) is $10.00 to $12.00. Occasionally you can find something on sale for $8.00 but nothing too heart-stopping. SO... To find these gorgeous fabrics at these wonderful prices is a God-send! You'd think I'd be in seventh-heaven! I ordered 6 yards of fabric for a total of $24.45 (Japanese quilting friends, can you believe the prices!) BUT... shipping cost me $29.50!

Now, this is no fault of the fabric company. They have to send it all across the USA and then the Pacific. The U.S. postal service no longer ships international packages surface mail and have raised their rates recently so it really can't be helped. I need fabric. Fabric in Japan is expensive. In my area the shops are small and don't have much stock. This wonderful world of ours offers Internet shopping and airplanes that deliver packages within a matter of days. What possible reason do I have to complain? But still... I wish I lived near Thousands of Bolts and other wonderful, inexpensive fabric stores and could pat myself on the back for all the money I save.

And no, just buying a lot of fabric when I'm in the States doesn't really alleviate the problem. Remember, I bought so much this summer that it wouldn't fit in my suitcases and I paid a fortune to mail it back to Japan. The other way I could have done it was to add another suitcase and pay the airline penalty for extra baggage! Anyway I look at it, to get it across the deep blue sea I have dole out some cash.

Regardless of my pocketbook, looking at the beautiful fabric convinces me it was well worth it and I'll probably be back at the website again soon!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Nikko National Park

Tetsu and I drank in the beauty and loveliness of God's world yesterday! It was the last day of a three day weekend so we decided to go up to Nikko's National Park about an hour away from us. It is so close I don't know why we don't go more, but I think it's only the second time I've been walking with Tetsu though I've gone hiking with my friends there before.

Since the park is a favorite place for schools to bring children on field trips, there have been times when I've been hiking and it seems like I'm taking part in a parade and can hardly progress forward! I mean 10s of buses will bring hundreds and hundreds of kids in and they all follow the teacher in a straight line, busload after busload! The children are obviously taught the proper manners when hiking "Always greet a fellow hiker" which is fine when you meet one or two people every few minutes but can be a pain for the person being greeted who has to respond to a few hundred "Hello"s as you pass a gaggle of field trip children. Yesterday we only ran into one busload of kids.

Look what I bought at the Nature Center. It is a bell for scaring away bears! Most of the hikers had bells of some type hanging from their backpacks though I don't think there's much danger of being attacked by bears. Too many people out hiking! (There was a sign that said that the last bear sighting was at the end of August, so they are there.) The bell was my fashion statement for the day and a nice memento of the hike. It is quite clever. The clapper can be screwed in to the top of the bell so that you can keep it from ringing if you wish. It was kind of pleasant hearing the bells jangle as you passed people on the trail.

The park was marvelously green and so beautiful to walk through. Well marked paths, even wooden walkways that seem to float over the grass and moors. You aren't supposed to go off the path so most of the land is wild and untouched. The most photographic point of the hike is a lone birch tree off on one of the moors. It is nicknamed "the Noblewoman" and it stands set apart from other trees and from a distant birch forest. In front of that was a "lake" that has met much coverage in the news the past two weeks because it only appears every few years after a major storm or typhoon. The Nikko area was hit by Typhoon 9 a couple of weeks ago and the wild ducks are happily making the lake their home while it is still around. Just lovely too, to see the colors of the grasses, the mountains that were almost erased by the clouds floating in, and the water reflecting the light and peacefulness surrounding it. A wonderful day!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Cluster Amaryllis

You are not going to meet anyone who knows less about flowers than I do but anyway, I'm devoting my post today to flowers. At least a species of flower that can be seen growing wild in this season..

Today is the Autumn Equinox and this flower is called a Cluster Amaryllis. I checked in the dictionary. In Japanese it is called an Equinox Flower and it grows during the Autumn Equinox. (See Quilting Journey's entry for what the Equinox is). Without fail this flower starts to shoot up a couple of days after the middle of September and blooms on September 21-24. Nowadays on my walks, I find hundreds of these flowers all around the banks of the rice fields and they surround the fields in glorious red! I suppose years and years ago some farmer must have planted the bulbs and I think I read somewhere that the bulbs are slightly poisonous so they keep the mice away from the fields.

You can also find Cluster Amaryllis in the cemeteries and around old gravestones and since this is the season for visiting family graves and paying respect to the ancestors it makes cemeteries quite cheerful. The flower is very striking, with its spikes and feathery petals and maybe made more so because it has no leaves. Just one day there is a little knob pushing out of the ground and a day or two later there is this beautiful firework of color.

My good friend Nonchi has made a cute little wall-hanging of the Cluster Amaryllis that she has posted on her blog. It makes me smile!

(By the way, Anne asked why the rice fields are dry now that they've been harvested. I asked and was told that while in spring the fields are flooded, they don't need to be drained, the water just seeps into the ground or evaporates before the combines go through them.)

Sunday, September 23, 2007


Yesterday I had a major sewing day. I had even told Tetsu that I really needed this weekend to sew (we had spent most of last weekend working) and he mistakenly assumed that I had some deadline for the Bazaar quilt. No deadline for this project but I really wanted to sew today. I felt guilty when he asked if I'd gotten much done today and did I need to spend more time on it, in which case he would wash the dishes. Just me playing around in the sewing room! I washed the dishes.

So this is what I did. Ok. My Japanese blog readers. Can you read what these say? I certainly hope so because I'm not going to get any closer than this. I don't really need a "Japanese" quilt but I'm trying to make a quilt that is all ME and this is pretty unplanned and unpredictable. I saw the characters on a website one time but instead of using the patterns there I just wonky cut and sewed. I had to keep using my Japanese character dictionary to make sure all the lines were pointing in the right direction.! I also tried making objects but I'm not completely satisfied with those yet. I'll have to practice a bit more before I show results here.

Not to keep you non-Japanese language readers in suspense. The block on the left is suppose to say "cat", and the one on the right hopefully says "dog". Japanese friends, do they pass inspection?

Saturday, September 22, 2007


How about some pictures of Japanese scenery?

The farmers are beginning to harvest the rice around here and in the early mornings we can hear the combines going back and forth along the fields. Sort of a soft comforting sound really. I know nothing about rice farming but I've noticed when I've lived in different places in Japan that each area of Japan has different ways of stacking the rice stalks after they've been cut. Some bunches of rice will be draped on specially built fences, others systematically piled in little stalks. In the past few years though, I've noticed that the farmers no longer stack the rice much anymore, so I asked one man who was working out in his field and he said that though rice tastes better dried slowly in the sun, nowadays all farmers have a rice drying machine that will dry the rice overnight. The rice plants are reaped and threshed and cleaned by the combine and then dried and bagged for the rice co-op to sell and this can all be done within about 24 hours.

Years ago, when all four of us were living here, I'd buy a 30 kilo bag (70lbs.?) of un-hulled rice from a farmer and hull it myself by one of the many hulling vending machines in our area (we really are a farming community!) I always thought 30 kilos of rice is a lot for a family but true Japanese who eat rice breakfast lunch and dinner will buy 90 to 150 kilos of rice and expect to eat it all in a year! Nowadays, with only Tetsu and me in the house, we just don't go through rice quickly enough for me to need such a big bag so I buy my rice at the grocery store 5 kilos at a time.

This week, one of the English kids' mothers brought me a small bag of "new rice" that her family had just freshly harvested. This is probably an all time favorite gift to receive in Japan. There's no way you can live without rice if you are a true Japanese family!

Friday, September 21, 2007

Sewing a little

I've been running around and keeping busy. Yesterday I joined my patchwork group and 6 of us started on putting the binding on the bazaar quilt and got most of that finished. (I think we left the end of that project for Mrs. Furui to work on. We always meet at her house so she ends up doing extra work.) As we were all getting ready to leave and trying to decide our next date to get together, Mrs. Furui pipes up. "Yes, and on that day we can start thinking about next year's bazaar quilt!" A lot of groans from the rest of us but it's the same every year. We swear we're not going to do this again and yet we barely get one quilt finished and raffled off before we're sewing on the next. We've been doing this at least twelve years now. Dedicated little group aren't we?

I've been doing my homework in Tonya's class and I am satisfied with the way I'm progressing in that class. The houses are colorful if nothing else. I need to start planning what I want to do with the house and word blocks I've made so far. Maybe find a good saying that goes with Home and houses.

I've also been working on the When-oh-When Quilt (christened by Nadine). I don't know what the real name of this quilt is. I think if some of the squares were facing the other way this would be a Stepping Stone quilt. Not too bad. A little busier than I'd expected but I can see it taking shape.

And here is Patora helping me with my ironing. That's not a very big ironing board but she didn't seem to think it necessary for her to move. Just made me iron around her. You can see she has me very well-trained.

Hmm. You can see pieces of that 365 Challenge quilt there. Yes, the challenge is seeing if your can keep up daily with the journaling. The sewing is the easy part.

Sorry about all these fractionally finished project pictures. It's going to be awhile until I get anything completed. I hope you don't get tired of seeing the stitch-by-stitch photo journal...

Thursday, September 20, 2007


Pulling up the dregs of posts today.

As you know by my profile, I am 52 years old. I'm aware of my age most often every time I sit down to sew and the reason is BECAUSE I NEED SEWING GLASSES! Actually I started needing sewing/reading glasses nearly 5 years ago, then only to sew but gradually I need them to sew, read, eat, apply make-up. (This is very tricky. I am reminded of an adult I knew when I was a child, who used to have make-up applied in the oddest places. I wondered if she used a mirror when she put on her make-up. Nowadays I sympathize with her!) To wound my pride even further, in Japan, reading/sewing glasses (such a nice innocuous word in English) are called "old eyes glasses".

I started off by just picking up a pair of drugstore reading glasses one year when I was in the States after my eye doctor suggested I might be needing them (I was already squinting and adjusting my arm length to sew.) I smiled and explained that I did very fine needlework (hah!) on a regular basis and that was why my eyes were going more quickly for my age. (I don't think I fooled him.) But I hated these glasses and hid them whenever I could. Tetsu would comment that I was looking like Granny Stella, a cookie brand character in Japan, whenever I had my glasses on to sew. You know, the peering over the tops of them to get the rest of the world in focus look. However, soon I was losing my glasses, so I started wearing them around my neck. No old lady chains for me. I've got a fashionable Chinese beaded eye-glass chain! Very chic!

Still, my glasses were the granny-ish wire rim type and somewhere along the line I decided if it was inevitable that I wear glasses, then at least I was going to look spiffy when I wore them! In Japan reading glasses fit the image of the "old-eyes" so back again in the States I found some great orange and red striped reading glasses at Wal Mart! I've been wearing these for a couple of years now and I must say, I get many people who comment on my modern sewing glasses. People are even envious! I picked up another pair this summer in pink and purple and then found another great pair in red, blue and black! What a fashion queen of reading glasses I'm going to become!

Unfortunately with so many pairs of glasses in my possession, I lose them all the more easily. When I had only one pair to keep track of, I kept track of them, but with 4 pairs I put them down somewhere and grab another pair in sight and then leave those in a different room until I'm running up and down stairs, checking all the rooms for any pair of glasses! Mad woman on the loose!

There are other times when I'm asking people (often the English kids) if anyone can find my glasses for me and they point out I've got one pair around my neck and another pair up on my head. Very sad... I guess I really am 52 years old and getting older by the minute...

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Quilting for the bazaar

I seem to be in a slump though not sewing-wise in particular. I made a batch of peanut butter cookies to serve to friends and burned one full cookie sheet so I ate them myself. Stupid. Slump One for the diet! Then I'm "too busy" to do my stretching exercises, so Slump Two for getting in shape!

BUT... I have been quilting though not as much as I would have liked. I have the bazaar quilt this week (actually I have to give it to the next person today) and I had planned to finish it all and have it ready to be bound tomorrow when the group gets together. I didn't manage to finish the last border so we'll have to bind it without it being completely quilted but I doubt that it will matter. We are about three weeks ahead of schedule which feels very good. Not too much quilting had to be done, almost completely stitch-in-the-ditch, and it is a cute quilt which I think will make a good showing. I don't know what Mrs. Furui has planned for the binding. Same color as the border or contrasting. I'll try to get one more picture when it is done and spread out but for now here is proof that I worked on the bazaar quilt!

It's Wednesday so I'm off to the kindergarten now!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007


I had a very busy day yesterday but nothing that was worthy of photographing.

Tetsu started working in the yard and he worked and he worked and he worked! It's almost scary when he gets started (but it takes a lot to get him started.) He was pulling weeds, spreading gravel, washing the patio, installing lights, digging up flower beds, hauling garbage etc. etc. Like a good wife, I tried to look supportive. This is good wife by Japanese standards I'm sure. As long as one person is busy, the rest of us around have to look supportive. In my humble American opinion, I can see this principle in lots of windows in Japanese life. Sometimes it's not exactly the effiecient way to do things but it is the proper way. The PTA president and vice president work like demons and the rest of us come to all the meetings but no one says BOO or does anything. But we are all very supportive! This is true for neighborhood meetings, business meetings etc. People come but not much is accomplished or it's all been decided before the meeting anyway and we all just show up to feign interest.

On another tangent... One year when Tetsu and I were both visiting at my brother's house, one of the pipes broke in the backyard and the area was flooding and there was a huge mess. My brother and Tetsu got out the shovels and were digging major holes in the lawn and pulling out the pipe in parts and trying to refit pieces and make repairs. They were covered in mud. Well, my mother and sister-in-law and I watched for a few minutes but then announced we were on our way out shopping. My brother didn't think twice about it. What could three women do in the pit that was already filled with mud and water and Tetsu and himself? Nothing. But Tetsu was completely flabbergasted that we insensitive females would leave the menfolk in such dire straits to go out shopping. It didn't matter that we couldn't contribute to the solution, we should be standing around wringing our hands and making sympathetic noises and offering to wipe their brows or something. It was support and sympathy that we were supposed to provide and then eternal gratitude when the problem was solved! I just thought it interesting the way "support" was valued.

So.... yesterday I couldn't just sit and quilt of course. I handed Tetsu ice tea occasionally and jumped to do small jobs like hand him a screw when he "needed" me. I also had to assure him that I was suffering alongside him and I chose to do my own labor inside the house. Washed all the floors, and the doors and the screens. Vacuumed everything vacuum-able (including fans and bookshelves) and overheated the vacuum cleaner so that it stopped working for about an hour. Also in washing the screens I managed to loosen a faucet and Tetsu who was just getting ready to call it a day, had to turn off the main water valve and start doing some plumbing. He was not happy with me. Just as the faucet was at a usable point, the electricity went out but we determined the whole neighborhood had had a blow out, not just us. Tetsu and I were sweaty and dirty but I had guests coming in about a half hour so it was a cold shower for me! What a day!

Finally work was finished, the house and yard looked great and Tetsu could go off and "play" while I had my guests. BUT... he got a call from work saying there was an emergency so off he went to repair that damage. My poor husband! I'll have to make a great dinner for him tonight and tell him again how wonderful I think he is. Now THAT'S called support!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Animal mischief

I guess yesterday was an eventful day. I can't think of anything to tell anyone. Hmmm... It seems like with the days we are given we should at least remember what we've done. I get upset with my English kids when I ask them how their week was and they can't think of a thing to tell me! Well, a bit of this and a bit of that. Spent some time at Tetsu's mothers' but she wasn't in the best of moods so I'll not dwell on that.

I guess I haven't been keeping you up on Tonya's class. That is a great challenge for me! Even though I knew how to make words (I'd made so many with the Wonky Word Quilt) I do best when someone gives me an assignment and I have to get something made by a certain date with specific directions. We were to choose a word and practice it so I chose HOME. I'm not sure why and I haven't any plans for using the word yet but I like the cheery effect of all the different colors and sizes. The next assignment is to play, so naturally I had to try Tonya's Wonky Houses. That seems to go with my chosen word don't you think? I do everything by the book, so my houses don't have a lot of personality yet, but I hope I can get more houses made during this week's practice and maybe get a bit more spark into them. I put a dog and a cat in the windows! I like that touch!

Look what my cats find to do when I'm not looking. This morning woke up to find one of Choco's chew bones on the stairs partly devoured. I didn't know cats like dog bones. This is probably Cleo. He loves crunchy things.

A couple days ago I discovered my lost pin cushion hidden at the bottom of the closet amongst my jeans. I'd been looking for this for a week and I'm pretty sure it's Patora that takes it away to play. One of these days Tetsu's going to step on a pin and I'M going to be the one in trouble!

And one day I heard a commotion upstairs and found three cats congregated in the bedroom checking out a bee hive that one of them had brought in. No, you're right, they are not outdoor cats but I had left a screen door open and probably Velvet pulled it open and went out exploring. When he finds something interesting he brings it home (frogs, grasshoppers etc.) and shows it off to the other cats. They were having a meeting about what this strange thing might be. No bees, thank goodness!

The only news I can think of about Lemi is that she seems to have lost a fang but seems none the worse for it. She is 13 so I guess this is part of aging. I don't know if she knocked it out in one of the cat scrambles or if it came out when she was crunching dried food. I'm not even sure how long it's been gone...

Choco seems happy enough in her back yard and we have to thank our neighbors for making us use the back yard now! (It used to be a holding space for junk.) She keeps Tetsu busy filling up the holes that she digs but her barking has decreased!

I guess the animals keep my life interesting!

Sunday, September 16, 2007


I stopped in yesterday at a little house in my neighborhood that "takes care" of older people during the day while their families are off at work and school etc. I think there must be about 8 grandmas who come on a fairly regular basis. The "center" was having their Culture Day which means they were displaying the arts and crafts that some of the grandmas have been making and I was just amazed at all the things! Gee! I wish I were old enough to join their class and learn some of their crafts! They very proudly showed me the patchwork they had sewn, the baskets they had woven, the flip-flop slippers that they had made. Really amazing what some of these people at age 80 and 90 can do!

The teacher just seems to borrow books from the library, basically learn the craft by book and then supplies the materials and gives hands-on instructions. She said some of the people are so gung-ho and fast that they run out of supplies before the end of the day is out! I love the slippers. I saw the process being done, but I sure wouldn't be able to make one of these without a lot of trial and error!

The grandmas very nicely gave me a couple of the baskets that they made out of a bamboo sieve and Japanese paper. The paper is from an old account book (found at an antique shop) written nearly 80 years ago by brush and charcoal, and cut up and applied like paper-mache to the sieve and then stained in persimmon juice! It looks like some very expensive antique yet the grandmas just make them in their spare time!

What inspiration! Ah! I hope when I'm 90 I'm still working with my hands and being creative!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Looking a gift horse in the mouth

I think I am usually very appreciative of gifts I am given but lately I find myself giving a hidden sigh when someone gives me a particular gift. We are in the chestnut season and I have to admit I'm not too thrilled when one of my students smilingly hands me a bag of chestnuts.

The autumn season is so beautiful around here and soon the days will be cool and crisp. Leaves change to all colors depending on how fast winter approaches. The rice fields will be harvested soon and occasionally I see little flocks of quails running through the forest. On tiring thing (to me) about this season, is the chestnuts. The chestnut trees are dropping big prickly balls of chestnuts now and in the forest you can hear the thunk-thunk when the wind blows. There are even such things as chestnut farmers and most of the people with any land at all around here have a couple of chestnut trees planted. That means that at this time of year there is an overabundance of chestnuts! I am getting them by the pounds! It seems like everyone is willing to give you a few bags of chestnuts and English kids' mothers hand me a bag every few days. It takes skill to look pleased at a heavy bag with a couple hundred nuts inside it when actually you are thinking about the three other bags just as filled that someone else has given you this week that you still haven't done anything with!

There are two things wrong with getting chestnuts. No, three. One, no one in my family has ever liked them. They don't have much taste and are naturally mealy but they are a very organic kind of food that is very nutritious. I have explained this to my family but no one wants to eat them. If I put them in the rice cooker with flavoring and rice, I get a nice pot of chestnut-rice which Tetsu will eat one dinner of, but he's not too thrilled with just boiled chestnuts or pureed chestnuts and chestnut-rice once a year is enough for him. Another problem with chestnuts is that they are murder to peel and make ready for eating. They have prickly outsides that stab your fingers and this shell can only be taken off with your feet in protective shoes. You step on them on one side of the chestnut and step on the other side with your other shoe and try to break them open enough to take out the three or four nuts that are inside. The nut's inner shell is almost impossible to get through without a very sharp kitchen knife and after removing the shells from about 20 nuts I have blisters on my thumbs and the fingers on my right hand are numb and my wrists are threatening tendinitis. It's not worth the work to get to the meat inside the nuts!

The last problem with chestnuts is that once you get past the shell, more often than not you find a worm. (Or worse, find you've cut it in half!) Sometimes you scream and drop the whole thing, though hopefully not the sharp kitchen knife in the process. Sometimes you throw out the whole nut, sometimes you cut the worm out. Someone suggested thinking of it as added protein and just cooking it and eating worm and all. Or another line of thinking is that if even the worm likes the chestnut it is guaranteed to be chemical free and delicious. I can't get myself to buy any of that jargon. So that's another reason for the skill it takes when receiving another bag of chestnuts. "Do I really want to go through another horror show experience tonight?" If not, then the bag just sits there for the worms to thrive on.

My husband, looking over my shoulder right now says I'm mostly going to get comments back today not about how nice the chestnuts look, but about how Tanya sure has dirty shoes! Sorry about that!