Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Blogging Rules

I've been thinking about how life gets more complicated as more technology develops. It should be the other way! All these neat gadgets are supposed to be time savers and make life easier aren't they? Right now I'm talking about the computer and blogging in general and I have a feeling I'm not the only one who gets pulled to the computer screen for longer blocks of time every day.

I first started blogging a little more than two years ago when surfing Internet and stumbling upon Bonnie's Quiltville Scrap User's System. I noticed a few comments and a couple of links and I followed those until I came upon the blogging world. I lurked around for a couple months but I was afraid of the big scary world out there and the imagined evil lurking behind the screen.

BUT... I ran across a marvelous quilt on Quilting Bebbs' blog and I posed a question and decided blogging manners and rules included revealing myself to Anne. She responded and I was hooked! Wow! I was communicating with someone in England!!! It reminded me of my days trying to stay in touch with a pen pal but SO MUCH FASTER. Computers, Internet and especially blogging are so great! Pretty soon I was commenting on other blogs and people were following links back to me until I belonged to my own little blogging community. And I've been happy ever since!

But notice that the minute I connected with another blogger, that I started following blogging rules (made up by myself) and I religiously answered e-mails that came in to me and visited the blogger. And once I hooked up to Bloglines then I could subscribe to every blog visitors' blog and comment there too! But I guess this is an old story. What I'm getting at is that the computer world has made communicating so fast and easy and such a time saver but I end up sitting here reading and writing and commenting and making new friends until I get swamped. And it's no fault but my own! And I love doing it! But sewing and housekeeping get ignored though thankfully I haven't been delinquent with my job yet. (That day could come!)

It's very interesting that some bloggers use their first name, some an alias, some a full name, some show pictures of themselves some don't and some even have their mailing address posted on their blog! I decided that I didn't mind posting my full name and my picture but I'll only post pictures of friends and family if I get permission (if I've gotten your permission once, my "rule" says I have it until you tell me to stop!) Some of my non-blogging friends think I could be tracked by the information I've posted on my blog, but really, who is going to hunt me down in the back woods of Japan? And why? I'm a housewife with no children at home who quilts. No great ransom material there.

An interesting situation came up a couple weeks ago when someone I didn't know contacted me asking if I had the mailing address of another blogger because they wanted to do something nice for the blogger. I had the address and was ready to e-mail it off when I said,

"Wait. What are the blogging rules about this?"

It makes me a little sad that I can't just assume that what is said is what really is. I wondered if I'd have the same qualms giving out an address of someone if I was stopped on the street by a stranger. You know,

"Where does so-and-so live?" "Oh, see the purple house second from the left? That's her house."

But the blogging world? I ended up going to the blogger and asking if I could reveal her mailing address (she said yes) and then passing the information along.

What about you? What are your "rules" for blogging?

Um...Here I am practically fresh out of bed, no make-up and making my morning blog hop before I start house cleaning chores etc. MY blogging rule says it's okay not to be spruced up to enter the blogging world. This is the real ME friends, and this is where I am at when I'm visiting with you!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Cat pocket tissue cover

This is so simple that it is hardly worth writing down, but I might forget myself someday so at least I'll have instructions on the blog.

Choose two fabrics (one for lining, one for the cover) I just cut width of fabric from both and I figure I can make four covers. I cut the strip 5 1/2".

Make a template. I just eye-balled the cat part of it. Sort of like a Mt. Fuji on one side and then clip out ears. I did this on paper first and then decided it was worth making a plastic template so I could make more. I doubt that this needs to be exact. I think my Mt. Fuji is about 1 1/4" high.

If you're making a template then from the "base" of Mt. Fuji you need 8 " length.

Trace top and bottom lines (these will be sewing lines) on the back side of the fabric. (I know, the picture is lousy but I did trace those lines from the template.)

Sew along lines, (top and bottom) back stitching at the points and corners of the cat's ears. I used fairly small stitches because my sewing distance was so small.

Clip corners and turn. Press.

With right side together fold the "cat" part to center and then fold the bottom part on top of that. The folds should overlap and the piece should be a bit more than 3 1/2" wide now. Let's say it should fit the tissue packet you're going to use.

Sew along both edges, clip corners and turn.

Add beads for eyes and embroider whiskers. (I didn't do any fancy hiding of knots here but some of you embroidery people know how to do that better than I.)
Push in the tissue and there you have it!

Monday, April 28, 2008

Mifumi Kindergarten

Last week I went in to the kindergarten a little early and wandered around the kindergarten grounds. The kids are still getting used to their new classes and the teachers have a job getting them round up to do indoor activities. A lot of playing in the mud, stringing flower petals (like a lei) and collecting bugs.

Mifumi Kindergarten has a very relaxed attitude towards educating children in academics and I think this is unusual in Japan. As with most of Japan, children enter full day kindergarten when they are three, though some families hold off until the child is four (and then it's hard to find a spot open!) During the day there are walks in the forest, a lot of art and crafts, singing, exercises, story time etc. The children bring their lunches, and kindergarten's daily program lasts until 2:00 and if requested the kindergarten will keep children until 5:00. I know, it seems a long time to be away from mom for these little three year-olds, but it is part of learning to get along in groups and being cooperative and this is very important in Japan.

Many kindergartens, especially in the major cities, have very intense preparation courses for elementary school. The kids are drilled in Chinese characters, use of abacus, even the proper way to take tests. I don't think too much of that type of education but a day of playing in the sun, and being with friends is better than sitting in front of a TV or playing computer games so kindergarten is an important part of life for both the children and the mothers. Since the society is one in which the fathers don't have much time to spend at home and since there is no such thing as baby sitters the only way mothers can have any social life is to make friends with other kindergarten mothers. There are loads of mothers' circles associated with the kindergarten, chorus, patchwork, kimono wearing, tea ceremony, cooking classes etc.

Here is a picture of one of the "skills" taught at the kindergarten. Unicycle riding! There are lots of unicycles on the grounds and the children who have learned to ride them are quite proud of themselves and as I walked around many of them called out to me,

"Tanya-sensei! Look at me!." "No, look at ME!"

I was looking at the teacher and I thought this pretty good that she was pedaling away along with the kids. That's one skill I don't think any teacher in the States would find necessary but I admire her for taking the plunge to learn how. (I wonder how many plunges she took before she got to this level of ability.)

Here's another skill valued at Mifumi. The ability to climb trees! Now, that's important! (And I'm not being sarcastic. I think the back to nature attitude is a great one!)

And lastly, a picture of Takumi when he was in Mifumi. Can you imagine what he's doing so diligently? I know, the picture isn't too great, but just before graduating from kindergarten every year the children are taught how to sharpen a pencil... Their one time holding a pencil while they are in this kindergarten. And those kids are NOT using a pencil sharpener. The 5 year-olds are given some pencils and an Exacto knife and they practice shaving the pencil to a point! I need to join that lesson because I don't think I can sharpen a pencil with an Exacto knife! I've never heard of any lost fingers in all the years that I've taught at Mifumi Kindergarten so I guess the kids know what they are doing!

Sunday, April 27, 2008


Sorry. Tetsu informed me that what we were looking at yesterday was "Shibazakura" (not sakura soh) which I've now checked again and find that it is called "Moss Pink" also referred to "Cherry Shrubs". Goes to show you I don't know my Japanese nor my flowers.

"A rose by any other name would smell as sweet..." Juliet

"A Shibazakura by any other name would still be breathtaking..." Tanya

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Sakura soh

Today Tetsu took me off on a "date" this morning. He's been doing this lately, taking me to places a couple hours away to enjoy the beautiful spring scenery and we realize how many interesting and lovely places are actually quite near to us. In all the years we've lived here we've never gone sightseeing and so now why this sudden activity?

"Well, you've got to show your blog friends something besides cats and dogs, quilts and rice fields so I thought you might take some nice pictures."

Ah, so that's why I've done more jaunting about than usual! Anyway, please enjoy while it lasts (next month gas prices are going up so we'll probably have to curtail our travels a bit.)

This morning's trip was supposed to be a surprise for me until we got lost and I had to start being navigator and follow the map. Just a couple of hours away from us boasts the largest "sakura soh" park on mainland Japan and this week it is in full bloom. I checked Google and sakura soh is called Siebold Primrose or Japanese Primrose in English and it is named sakura soh (cherry blossom grass) because the tiny flowers look like cherry blossoms. The gradations were wonderful and such a carpet of color spread out on the rolling hills. Loads and loads of people coming by the busloads but we got there early enough to find parking and take Choco with us on a long walk. I took at least 20 pictures but I guess they are all about the same so I'll just share a few.

As we walked around it was a bit difficult to stay out of the way of other people trying to snap pictures without walking into their picture (and vice versa I'm sure). I have no qualms at all about asking if someone would like me to take their pictures for them so I was photographer for 3 or 4 people. I offered to take a picture of a family with a little boy and just as they lined up to be snapped the little boy ran off yelling,

"Mommy, mommy! Look! There's a dandelion!"

I thought that was hilarious that with all these millions of sakura soh surrounding him the little boy should be so happy to find a dandelion!

"Even grasses have cherry blossom flowers in Japan, the country of cherry blossoms"

Japanese poet, Issei Kobayashi's haiku about sakura soh.

Friday, April 25, 2008


Last week Leiya announced that she had to have her wisdom teeth taken out. AAARRGGHH!!! I knew this was going to happen and I wasn't too thrilled about it. Another brick in the wall emphasizing the differences between Japanese and American culture.

Before Leiya went to America three years ago I took her to the dentist to have her teeth checked. After Takumi went to the States one of the first times he visited the dentist he was told that his teeth weren't in such good shape even though I've always made sure he had dental care. He ended up paying quite a lot of money to have his teeth fixed. This has happened to other friends who send their kids to the States. Whatever the Japanese dentist thinks is adequate care, the American dentist has always been horrified and I've heard numerous stories of paying out a fortune once in the States.

Sooooo... foreseeing all this, not only did we have the Japanese dentist take extra care with Leiya's teeth before she went to the States, I also asked if she could have her wisdom teeth removed. I didn't want to have problems with them while she was in the States. No. The dentist would not do that. He wasn't equipped to perform surgery on teeth that had not yet made an appearance and if I really felt it was necessary he would refer me to the major hospital in the next city. I really felt it was necessary, so we made an appointment and took Leiya in.

"Sorry Mrs. Watanabe. We do not recommend wisdom teeth removal for your daughter." (Hint, hint. What kind of a mother are you that you would want to inflict pain upon your child when she has no teeth problems.)

I explained that I had heard this referred to in America as preventative medicine, side-stepping future problems, preventing her straight teeth from becoming crooked etc. No. It was unnecessary surgery and SURGERY ran risks (damage to facial bones, nerves etc.) and basically they gave me the scare tactic. Yeah, you're right. Why would I want to inflict all of this on my daughter? Since Leiya wasn't too pleased with the prospect anyway, and Tetsu thought it all my American-ism coming out, I had no backers on me so we DID NOT have Leiya's wisdom teeth taken out.

So, now, the American dentist says it's necessary just because.... preventative medicine, I guess. I didn't talk to him. Leiya will be in the States for at least another four years. She is going off to college and at the very least she has been going to a dentist in her city that she and her host family trust. I told her to do what her dentist recommended and thus she had her wisdom teeth out this week.

Any of you in the States know dental costs in America so I won't go into it but at the very least Japanese dental costs are a tenth of the American costs and that's not even including insurance. I went to the dentist myself last week and paid $20 and I thought that was high! Usually I can get a filling for less than $10. I think Tetsu's company insurance pays two thirds of the medical fees and we pay a third out of the pocket but still, that means the dentist probably only got paid about $60 for his services to me last week.

I must admit that though dental care is cheap in Japan, I don't think too highly of it. All the technology is there so that's not the problem, just that good teeth are not as protected and revered as in the States. And this may be a small point, but no privacy! A patient gets ushered into the dental office and is greeted by a line of dental chairs. The patient gets placed in one of the chairs with other victims waiting in their own chairs on either side. My dentist places a washcloth over my eyes so at least I can't SEE him wrestling with other people's mouths but I can HEAR all the drilling, the clanging of instruments, the spitting and occasionally moans of other patients. And usually a dentist will ask you if you want Novocaine. ARE YOU KIDDING???!!! PUT ME TO SLEEP IF YOU HAVE TO!!!! My dentist must think I'm a problem patient because he chuckles when he looks at his dental chart on me and says,

"ahh, yes, you're Mrs. Watanabe who wants pain killers when I'm working on your teeth."

DOESN'T EVERYONE!!!!????? The first time I had my teeth fixed in Japan 30 years ago I'd heard so many horror stories that when I got out of the dentist chair pain free, I went down the street and bought the dear dentist an arrangement of flowers! He was very surprised but I felt like I'd been unexpectedly led away from the gallows!

Oh dear... This is getting long. I guess I could go on forever about my experiences with dentists in Japan. Leave it to say that I think both Leiya and I still have nice smiles and that's thanks to both the American and Japanese dentists.

Thursday, April 24, 2008


Hmmm. My quilting output hasn't been doing so well. Things don't always go as we'd like and that is true of life as well as quilting. For one. I have put away my feathered star quilt blocks. I think my last words about this quilt were "Hoping I can get this to flimsy stage this week." but not only didn't I do that, I've decided I don't like the way the quilt is turning out. I laid out ALL the blocks and came to the conclusion that the sashings are too bright. All you see is the sashing! I think they kill the blocks. I'd hate to finish that quilt and not like it (though that sometimes happens too) so I'm putting everything away and maybe when I'm in the States I'll find some softer blue for this quilt.

I guess I don't know how to buy fabric online because though I have ordered fabric two or three times, I realize that most of my ordered fabric is still sitting in my drawers unused. I can't find a way to use them and this time it was especially obvious that what I had thought was going to be a wonderful blend of color was way off base. It's no fault of the website. They showed the true colors of the fabric and I chose them but all together? Nope. And this is true of most everything else I've ordered... they just don't fit with what I want to make (or I've not ordered enough). So disappointing. I'm sure my sashing and corner blocks will be usable in a future quilt (note to myself: make 12 BRIGHT 15" blocks) so not all is lost! My poor feathered star quilt!

Then today I went to my patchwork group's gathering to work on the bazaar quilt and we spent a lot of time placing all the blocks we'd made into some order. Some of us sewed squares the whole time and then we put one corner of the quilt together with the checkered sashing. Nope. We didn't really like it! All that work! This is just too busy! So I've brought it home and will take it apart tomorrow and my friends will be making some vine applique which we hope will be more suitable than the flying geese block in there.

Why is it that some things go together effortlessly and some are a constant battle?

I guess I'll go cut some more squares. I probably can't go too wrong there.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


Leiya wrote yesterday to say that two of her friends had been killed in a car accident. How can I comfort her? Even though we know death can happen at any time, the denying, the anger, the sadness can't be passed over. This song says it well for me.

Homesick by Mercy Me

You're in a better place, I've heard a thousand times

And at least a thousand times I've rejoiced for you

But the reason why I'm broken, the reason why I cry

Is how long must I wait to be with you

I close my eyes and I see your face

If home's where my heart is then I'm out of place

Lord, won't you give me strength to make it through somehow

I've never been more homesick than now

Help me Lord cause I don't understand your ways

The reason why I wonder if I'll ever know

But, even if you showed me, the hurt would be the same

Cause I'm still here so far away from home

I close my eyes and I see your face

If home's where my heart is then I'm out of place

Lord, won't you give me strength to make it through somehow

I've never been more homesick than now

In Christ, there are no goodbyes

And in Christ, there is no end

So I'll hold onto Jesus with all that I have

To see you again

To see you again

And I close my eyes and I see your face

If home's where my heart is then I'm out of place

Lord, won't you give me strength to make it through somehow

Won't you give me strength to make it through somehow

Won't you give me strength to make it through somehow

I've never been more homesick than now

"For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part,

but then I shall know fully just as I also have been fully known."

1 Corinthians 13:12

Monday, April 21, 2008


Last week I wrote about Takumi and his jr. high mishap and I thought to play fairly I should relate Leiya's too. Leiya gave me permission to reveal secrets in her past.

My daughter has never been a girly girl. She doesn't like frilly things and she's never been considered delicate and petite. Except where her brother is concerned I always considered Leiya to be slow to anger and fairly level headed, but my illusions were dashed when one morning we got a phone call from her jr. high (same one Takumi had made a name at four years earlier. That school was so glad when both my kids graduated!)

"Could you please come immediately to the school. We think Leiya has broken her hand."

Ahh, well, these things happen and as I ran out the door I was thinking,

"Did she fall off her bicycle on her way to school? Did she get hurt in morning bamboo sword practice (her club)?"

At the nurse's office there was the health teacher and the home room teacher and numerous friends all clustered around a bed on which Leiya lay looking decidedly green! I'd never seen a green person before! Definitely green!

One look at the hand and I had to agree. The hand had a huge lump in it and looked very broken. So off we went to the doctor that is recommended by the school.

As we waited for the doctor I got the details.

"Did you fall? Did you get struck with a bamboo sword? What happened?" (My poor injured little girl!)

"No. I got mad at my friend so I punched the door and I heard a snap and my hand had this big lump and I almost fainted and my friend helped me up to the nurse's room."

"WHAT! You punched a door! How stupid is that!" My poor injured girl was now just a dumb, hot-headed thug!

I didn't feel much sympathy for her after that! The only good thing was that she had punched a door and not her friend!

The hand was set and put in a cast and Leiya had an inconvenient 6 weeks because she couldn't hold a pencil (not good for her studies) nor a bamboo sword (her team mates and coach were very upset with her). But it wasn't until 6 weeks later when the cast came off that I could have turned into a hot-headed thug myself!

The hand still had a lump in it! Wait a minute, I said to the doctor, is this it? You mean, you set the bone still crooked? Talk about fury! The doctor seemed to think he was finished with us so I went home to rant and rave and fume and took Leiya to another specialist who said yes, the bone had been set wrong and unless we wanted to take her to a major hospital and have surgery, she'd have to live with it.

Tetsu seemed to think that we learned not ever to go back to the first doctor (the same one who hadn't taken head x-rays when Takumi landed on his head!) but beyond that there was no reason to cause a ruckus. Leiya was just pleased that her hand was out of the cast and she definitely did not want to have the hand re-broken and operated on! It took me a long time to get past the fact that my daughter's hand was lumpy and she now held a pencil at an odd angle.

However... Leiya's hand has smoothed out a bit as the years go by and she has learned how to hold her temper as well as hold a pencil however oddly. And I guess the jr. high incident hasn't interfered with her artistic abilities because she will be going on to study art in college.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Fabric and a rainbow!

Look what the mail man delivered yesterday! Last week I had made a comment on Calico Cat's blog about her beautiful fabrics that she was willing to give away and she pulled my name and said she would send them to me if I would e-mail her an address. E-mailing was easy! Sending the package? Well, I'm surprised her husband didn't tell her to go find someone else to give her fabrics to! I'm not giving out numbers but it cost a lot to send this box!!! Calico Cat had every right to say "No way am I going to send this to you Tanya. Let's do it "collect on delivery"!

After seeing all the trouble and the amount that Calico Cat had to pay (and I've been on the recipient end of other blog giveaways!) I almost feel like I shouldn't even submit my name to these games because the blogger probably doesn't realize how much international postage costs these days! Thank you, thank you my blogger friends who have made the sacrifice!

But Calico Cat's box was filled with treasures! Look at all the fabric that Calico Cat got into her box (yes, it was a big box). Such bright happy fabrics set against black backgrounds and so much color! I certainly didn't expect this much fabric! She hadn't shown all that she was giving away on her blog so this was a real surprise! Some of these are too pretty to use! I can see making a young person's quilt to brighten up a wall or bed though I haven't anyone lined up right now! All the pieces are quite large too so these can go a long way!

Doesn't that rainbow of fabrics make you smile? I'm going to have to think of something that sets them off well together and not let them get separated! I'm so excited! I'll have to spend some time blog hopping and looking at websites to find something worthy of these beautiful colors! My patchwork friends are going to be so envious!

Thank you so much Mr. and Mrs. Calico Cat!!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

A sewing day!

Yesterday I woke up and realized I didn't have anything scheduled for the day! And it was a rainy day! (can't walk Choco) And I already had groceries for the night's dinner! This means there was no reason why I couldn't just sew all day! Yeah!

First off I have to confess that I've been lurking around Bonnie's Orange Crush mystery and without really committing myself I've been making four-patches from leader-enders. I don't have the right fabric for this quilt but hey, I can always go out and buy some if I got motivated right? Ok. four-patch blocks done. Step two was to use the Easy Angle ruler and make triangles. Well, I just so happen to have an Easy Angle ruler that I bought last summer and it was still in it's packaging. Great excuse for experimenting on the Orange Crush so that was my job yesterday! I cut loads of triangles (Bonnie's right! The ruler is great!) and made loads of split four patch blocks. I'm still at that stage but she's given us two weeks to finish step two so I'm in no rush.

Just to add some variety to my day I pulled out the basket with my Feathered Stars in it and spent about 15 minutes looking at my half-done pieces. What was I doing? How many pieces did I need? How far had I gotten? How big is this block supposed to be? It's easy to forget after relegating a quilt to a few months of back closet residence. But I started measuring and squaring and pretty soon I was back in the groove. I've laid out my stars (hey, I made 12 of them. Wow! I thought it was only 9!) and put the lattice around them. Hmm... Very blue. I guess I hadn't realized that when I ordered the fabric and it is certainly different from my imagined quilt but it is a pretty color. Hoping I can get this to flimsy stage this week!

When evening rolled around I felt so guilty from all my sewing time that I started cleaning house and by the time I went to bed around 9:30 the place looked good. Tetsu's first comment to me this morning was

"Hey, the house looked great last night when I came home (around 10:30! He never changes!) Did you have guests or something during the day?"

He meant it as a compliment but it makes me realize how lax my housekeeping has become since he can notice a difference. Also sort of sad that he'd think I'll clean for guests but not just for us! I'll try to keep in mind that I'm a wife first and a quilter second!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Japanese-English? English-Japanese

Sometimes I wonder how the human brain works. I am very good at remembering names but numbers and sequences I have a terrible time. My brain must not be too bad because I do manage to remember two languages but this is what prompted my musings.

The other day I was helping a friend translate some English into Japanese. This is a bit more difficult for me than translating Japanese into English. The Japanese language is so complicated with sentence structure so completely opposite from English, not to mention the formal-informal language, the nuances and poetic vagueness etc. It is one thing to understand the Japanese language but quite another to be able to speak (don't even think about write!). I get along pretty well in normal conversation but I'm not so good at literal translating because I omit the niceties and I probably sound harsh and crass to the Japanese around me.

One traumatic experience I had over 20 years ago was to be asked to interpret at a city festival. Some sister-city representatives from the States were invited and the official translator couldn't attend so I was asked to translate. And I thought I'd be able to do it! Once at the event I realized this wasn't a drink and appetizer party, it was an official presentation and the American was scheduled to give a speech on the technical contributions his company and city had introduced to Japan. I backed away saying this was not in my scope of abilities but people began to get very irritated with me because I had agreed and was getting paid for my services. Fine time to be saying I couldn't do it when I was about to step on stage!

Conclusion? I went up on stage and could not interpret worth beans. I couldn't pull the Japanese vocabulary out of my head (if it was ever even there). I couldn't adjust the language into formal Japanese. I couldn't even complete some sentences. What a fiasco! As soon as I left the stage I ran home in shame and embarrassment and it spent a couple days in tears and refused to meet with the people who had arranged the whole circus. Since then I've spent years running away from translating jobs! Trauma, big time!

I'm not so bad though when it comes to translating Japanese into English. I understand the nuances of the Japanese language and the thinking and culture behind it. I can speak the English perfectly (well, some of my American friends think my English needs polishing these days) and I do a good job of getting information from the Japanese language into English.

Another interesting thing about language and the brain is that I tend to answer a person in the language that I'm spoken to. This would become confusing when visiting the States because I'd be chatting with friends in English and Leiya or Takumi would say something to me in Japanese and my brain would shift into Japanese and I'd find myself continuing my conversation with my friends in the Japanese language much to their amusement. It always takes me a few seconds to get back into the right language mode.

I used to annoy my kids when we were in the States because we'd step off the plane in Los Angeles and my English brain would kick in and I'd have a hard time understanding Japanese for the rest of the summer.

"Sorry. My brain forgets Japanese while I'm in the States. You'll just have to use English!"

The kids would think I was just being mean to them or wanting to force them to use their limited English but it was really true. My brain would close down and I wouldn't be able to shuttle the vocabulary around in my head! I'm sure others of you who are bi-lingual (or more!) have had situations like this.

I should have used this picture for yesterday's post but you get the picture. Do any of you know this website It is hilarious (though I'm warning you, it can sometimes get a little earthy!) Translating and interpreting can be tricky!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Tissue holders

I'm off and running today so this will be short.

When I was in Asakusa last week I found a wonderful little shop with trinkets being sold and there seemed to be an awful lot of cat things in it. I am a sucker for cat things and I did buy a couple towels etc. but I know not everyone is thrilled with cats so I decided I should curtail my cat purchases. Even so I couldn't resist this little pocket tissue holder and I bought it for ME! I loved the color and the fact that it was made of kimono material and of course since it's a cat I couldn't pass it up!

When I got home, I looked at my tissue holder and realized that it isn't really hard to make so I've been experimenting with my own fabric and have sewn up a couple. I should probably make a better choice of fabrics on these but this was left over kimono material of my own so I used what I have.

Do we even have these little pocket tissues in the States? In Japan they are very popular (because some of the public toilets in the parks etc. don't even offer toilet paper!) and everyone has a packet squirreled away in their handbag or back pocket. Children are required to keep a packet in their bookbags at school and are strongly recommended to carry a pocket tissue and a handkerchief wherever they go. (Handkerchiefs are necessary because until recently bathrooms didn't offer paper towels or have hand blowers.) Often the pocket tissues are used for advertising and as you walk down the street or mall, someone will hand you one that has the shop or businesses logo and telephone number on it. The banks give them out, the post office gives them out, the hair salons etc. One rarely has to go buy pocket tissue because everywhere you turn you can pick one up!

Anyway, I'm not sure if I'll keep up with my production of kitty pocket tissue holders. I guess I don't need more than one and, as I say, not that many people are as in love with cats as I am. And if you don't have the tissues in the States that fit the holder then I guess no one needs them there as a present from Japan either... Patora likes them!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


Yesterday my friend and student Mrs. Ide, invited us over to her house for a tako-yaki party. Mrs. Ide and I share an interest in patchwork and other handcrafts and you have met her before when she wrote about her past profession as a weaver of Japanese cloth. Yesterday we did a lot of eating and chatting (some in English!) and I took lots of pictures of our "party".

First of all Mrs. Ide served us some lovely Japanese bean cakes and frothy green tea. Look at these cakes! Aren't Japanese confectioneries amazing? These are all representing the spring season; the blue one is supposed to be an iris, the green one probably wild flowers, the white one a camellia and the other two Boy's Day carps! So delicious and the green tea which is thick and very strong complements the sweet bean cakes wonderfully.

Then we started our tako-yaki party. I love tako-yaki but since I don't have a tako-yaki plate I buy my ready made tako-yaki at outdoor vendors or tako-yaki corners in the supermarket. Tako means octopus and yaki means grilled or fried and these are little "pancakes" with pieces of octopus, chopped green onions, red ginger and tempura chips inside. The tako-yaki plate is made of heavy iron and has little dips or cups that batter can be poured into. The batter is made of flour, water, egg, dried shrimp and dried fish flakes and once the batter is poured into the cups little morsels are added. As the batter cooks, the edges are prodded and poked and gradually they become little perfect balls with all the delectables hidden away inside! Then it is just a matter of divvying up the balls to everyone and eating them with a sauce of Worcestershire sauce, mayonnaise and a sprinkling of dried seaweed. Yum! The next batch is poured into the cups and for the whole afternoon we made tako-yaki and chatted!

I had such a good time and am tempted to go out and buy a tako-yaki plate but I don't think Tetsu has enough patience to poke and prod his dinner for a couple of hours so I guess I'll continue to purchase my tako-yaki at the vendors.

And for people who can't stomach the octopus, Mrs. Ide suggested using pancake batter and instead of seafood, filling the balls with chocolate chips and bananas! That sounds good too!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Our vet

Yesterday I took Choco in to the vet's to get rabies shots, have a filaria blood test done, ask about micro-chips and make a reservation to have her boarded while Tetsu and I are in the States next month.

I really love my vet, but I didn't think to get a picture of him yesterday. Rats. And I probably won't go back until we board Choco so I've only got this old picture of him with our old dog Shoko. Oh well. Here's what he looks like. He is the older man. The younger assistant has gone on to have his own private veterinary hospital in another city.

I have changed doctors and dentists a few times since I've lived in this area (over 20 years) but Dr. Yabe has been our vet ever since we first picked Shoko up off the streets. He and his wife own a small veterinarian hospital (she is also a vet) and I think Mrs. Yabe's father owned the hospital before them. This is quite common in Japan with all sorts of businesses and services. The doctor's, dentist's, vet's offices will all be privately owned and passed down to a son or daughter or family member. Interesting because I don't think that is so common in the States and besides most of the vet offices I have known in the States are joint offices with 4 or 5 vets working out of one hospital.

Anyway, I guess you could say I trust Yabe-sensei more than I trust a lot of the doctors I've been to and this may be because he isn't so rushed for time. Another factor is that I have let him see me in the pits of despair as well as the high times. I can tell him funny stories about my animals, ask him serious questions about how to get Choco to desist in some of her maddening attitude problems and sob out my heart to him when we discuss euthanasia or the nearing of the end of life for one of my furry family members. Yabe-sensei called me in the evenings after hours to see how Lemi was doing during her last days in February and he has always been understanding and supportive of my American ideas and differences about keeping animals.

Years ago one summer when I was in the States, my mother's cat suddenly died. When we noticed something wrong, of course we took her to the vet, but while there overnight the cat passed on. Two days later my mother received a sympathy letter from the vet which was so comforting. When I returned to Japan and took one of my animals in to Yabe-sensei, I related this story and he was struck by the care of this American vet and the necessity of the sympathy letter for overcoming pet loss.

Since that time, nearly 15 years ago, Yabe-sensei has mailed out many sympathy letters to his patients' owners (I have received two. Shoko and Lemi) and he often thanks me for teaching him a very important lesson.

And here is Choco on her favorite spot. ON TOP of Tetsu. Choco is not allowed on the sofa but she and Tetsu seem to think that if she is on top of Tetsu then that is not officially the sofa. That's a heavy dog but Tetsu seems to like the position too.

Monday, April 14, 2008

A Worn out quilt

Hmmm. I don't seem to have anything thrilling to say this morning. Maybe because I'm in a bad mood. I realized about 20 minutes ago that I was supposed to have gone to an "important" meeting (not in my book so maybe that's why I forgot) last night and it is still too early to call people this morning and apologize. Just because I'm over 50 doesn't mean I have to assume all my forgetfulness is due to age but I do seem to have these convenient lapses more often!

So instead of spreading grumpiness around I'll show you an extremely old quilt and ask what you think I should do about it.

This is my first completed quilt made under supervision. It even has a date on it, Nov. 12, 1986! That means it is 22 years old. That's about right. Before this I had made a couple quilts from book instructions that were horrors. They were such monstrosities! (I'll go looking for pictures of those.) After Takumi was born I started feeling stressed out from lack of adult conversation and when Tetsu ended up between jobs he offered to watch Takumi to let me get out of the house once a week. Tetsu had even heard of a quilt class being offered at our church so for a few months I attended a real class and had some female companionship accompanied by handwork.

After one or two small clutch purses, the teacher suggested I make a baby quilt (I had the baby!) and so I started making squares from old fabric that someone had once given me (from a grandmother's collection!) and old shirts and aprons of my own. Once I got the blocks done I just asked the teacher to buy me some fabric that might go with it, I really had no idea about colors, contrast etc and was just interest in the sewing process rather than the designing.

Once the quilt was all together I did a simple quilting pattern and at that point I knew I was caught for good! I went on to make a much larger sample quilt under the teacher's direction but then Tetsu found a job in a different prefecture so I was on my own again for quilt making.

As I say, this quilt is old and the fabrics are older! I still have a whole bag of these old fabrics already cut into squares. The quilt is dissolving away into dust and in places it is only held together by my quilting stitches. The cats have attacked this too and so even the newer fabric is ripped in places. Right now the quilt sits on an ottoman so it is still getting wear. I suppose I should put it away so that it doesn't suffer more damage but for some reason I keep it out. I don't think Takumi will ever have any great nostalgic feelings for it and it looks so bad that I'm the only one who could love it now or in the future.

I saw on someone's blog, some cushions and stuffed animals made from antique quilts and thought "Well, I've got the "antique quilt" right here. I could just cut this up into pieces and make a cat cushion or something."

But cushions don't hold my attention as much as quilts and there are only so many cushions that one can have. But it might be a nice way to go for an old quilt...

What do you think? What do any of you do with old, worn out quilts?