Saturday, February 28, 2009

Morning light

This is not a very flattering picture of me but flattering pictures are few and far between these days. Oh well. This is what I look like at 6:15 in the morning with my only concession to the new day being my contact lenses. Besides that I've got on pajamas and long underwear under my down jacket and ski pants. In the winter even the farmers aren't out at 6:15 so there's no one to see sleepy me. Choco doesn't seem to care how I look and I guess Tetsu doesn't either.

But this is worth looking at! I took the camera with me when we went for a walk this morning. The scenery stays the same but the sky is always different. I love the beauty of the world I live in and even though I may wake up grumpy in the morning, a walk in these surroundings puts me in a good mood! Nancy reminded me of the lovely hymn, Morning Has Broken.

Mine is the sunlight! Mine is the morning.
Born of the one light Eden saw play!
Praise with elation. Praise every morning,
God's recreation Of the new day!

Friday, February 27, 2009

Blind leading the blind

Yesterday Tetsu's mother called and wanted Tetsu to take her to the bank. Being that it was Thursday he certainly wasn't available but I happened to have the day off so I offered to take her.

When Tetsu and I were dating I'm sure his mother wondered where he'd found this foreigner. He couldn't speak English, hadn't been overseas. The bullet train didn't extend to the city we were living in so there were very few foreigners around at all.

When we decided to get married Tetsu's mother took it all in stride and there were a few months that we even lived together. She was and is a perfectionist at housecleaning and this was an area where neither of us understood each other. She'd be cleaning the insides of appliances with a toothbrush and I didn't even know you could get inside appliances like that! I wasn't much of a cook either and because my cooking repertoire was limited to things with cheese and macaroni, she often made her own meal. Our months of living together gratefully ended (for both of us) when Tetsu was transferred to another city.

Although we now live in the next city over, Tetsu's mother resists coming to visit us because she isn't too fond of animals and since my cleaning skills haven't improved she can't bear to see all the cat fur on the furniture. Tetsu and I will visit her on weekends and I will occasionally surprise her with a visit. The last time I took Chip over with me which horrified and delighted her at the same time!

Yesterday Obaachan (Grandma) needed me to drive her to the bank, help her get from the car to the buildings (she doesn't see well and doesn't walk well either) and help her get money out of her account and put it into another bank. The blind leading the blind.

We had to make three stops at three banks and attempted to do bank business on the ATMs. Obaachan doesn't like these machines but the banks ask you to try using the ATM before you go to the counter. The ATM touch top screens are hard for Obaachan to see and as she runs her finger along the screen trying to find the right button the computer inside goes crazy and flashes messages at us to redo whatever she's done since she's touched too much of the surface at one time.

"Obaachan, let me try. What to do you want to do?"

Not that telling me helps very much. I don't like these machines either. One great feature is that they will speak English to you but Obaachan didn't want us to use an "English speaking machine". So I tried figuring out the Chinese characters for all the processes available which took some time and resulted in errors. Finally someone in the bank came out from behind the counter to help us. Yep. The blind leading the blind.

Then on to the second bank and then on to the third bank with a repeat of the challenges. ATM machines are different at every bank.

We rewarded ourselves with steaming bowls of Chinese noodles and sweet bean pancakes for lunch. Obaachan is probably not going to ask me to help her at the bank again.

And Obaachan wouldn't let me take her picture yesterday ("I didn't paint in my eyebrows.") so here is one I took of her when Takumi was visiting last summer.

Thursday, February 26, 2009


The other day my neighbor invited me to come and see her ikebana arrangement. She is an ikebana teacher and seems to go here and there all over Japan to teach flower arranging and also learn herself. She is a very community minded lady and every week she places a flower arrangement in the entryway of the local elementary school.

When I first came to Japan I tried taking a beginning flower arranging class but soon learned that I had no artistic abilities whatsoever and gave up quickly. These days with five cats in the house, flower arrangements, plants in general, don't last very long. I will put flowers in a vase and within a few minutes the cats have shredded the flowers or tipped over the vase. Too bad since a few flowers in the house about now would brighten up the place a bit.

Anyway, I visited my neighbor and was shown into the formal Japanese room devoid of any furniture but with a lovely Japanese alcove on one side of the room. And in the alcove was a scroll and my friend's beautiful flower arrangement. Now this is interesting. Not like normal flowers in a low Japanese dish, more like a small artistic tree sprouting from the corner of the room.

It seems that my friend had spent a week in Kyoto (the cultural capital of Japan) attending a flower arranging seminar by one of the more famous ikebana teachers in Japan and it had taken the whole week to make this arrangement. Now look at that. Doesn't that look like someone chopped off a branch and put it in a vase? Ah, looks can be deceiving!

This branch is a real branch but it has been severed in three major pieces and all the smaller branches and needle clusters have been removed. The major parts of the branch were then carpenter pieced and arranged in an interesting shape. Where each of the smaller branches were to go the arranger drilled holes and made a perfect fit so that the branches could be inserted and removed. And each of the needle clusters were also wired together, wrapped in tiny pieces of cloth that can be removed from the branch, dipped in water and then replaced so that the needles don't dry out.

With all the drilling and and making of holes my friend stabbed a hole in her hand and she was sporting a few band aids. Dangerous work this ikebana!

After the week of seminar the whole arrangement was dissembled and then boxed and delivered back to my friend's home where she re-assembled the whole thing again. With the removing of needle clusters she said the arrangement will last a month or more...

Think of the manicured Japanese gardens and the intricately wired bonsai. Part of the beauty of Japan is to work very hard to force pieces of life into shapes and forms yet make it look very natural.

With all the work that went into this one arrangement I appreciate God's artistic ability to form endless pieces of natural art!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009



That is today's message from Patora. I found her sitting on my computer again and this was what was on the screen.

I have warned the cats to stay off of the computer but Patora seems to like the feel of the keys and the warmth of the motor.

Or maybe she wants to try her paw at blogging...

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

365 Challenge finished!

For all my griping and headaches I have finished the 365 Challenge and it doesn't look half bad!

Except for one major wrinkle (and a couple of minor ones) I can't even see where the battlefield was. I fixed a couple wrinkles by hand (take the machine stitches out for a few inches, go back and hand quilt the lines. Yes, there is a difference but better than wrinkles and no one but me is going to go over this that closely.)

My 365 Challenge was started in May of 2007 after a couple blogging friends suggested we do this together. The original link is Leanne's 365 Challenge. There was a group to join that I didn't join so I have only come across a couple of finished 365 Challenges. The original instructions were to use beige fabrics in a larger size but I knew that would get much too unwieldy in my small house. But somewhere along the way I decided that even with dyed fabrics I was using (instead of beige) that this wasn't going to be a very spicy quilt so I added borders around each week. (I saw that idea somewhere but I don't remember where.)

It was so easy to forget to write the daily entries that I almost gave up on the whole thing a couple of times but you can see that I managed to go to the end. My 52nd year of life (started on my 52nd birthday.) I love all the colors. I love the fact that I used fabrics in the borders that I was using at that time for other projects. There are fabrics from Thelma and Connie and Nancy and Cassie and Amy and Liz.

2007-2008 marked the year of Leiya graduating from high school, the passing of Lemi. I can see I used bright colors when recording Leiya's milestone and dark colors when writing the last days of Lemi.

Friends are amazed that each of those blocks have so much writing in them. They laugh and say I have a journal that is open to everybody but no one will read (too much trouble to read all that English). Another comment was that at least I wouldn't have to worry about ghosts. WHAT?!! I don't know what you are talking about!

It seems there is a Japanese legend about a Buddhist priest who was visited by ghosts. In order to protect him, his friend wrote the Buddhist sutra all over his body which made the priest invisible to the ghost who was bothering him. Except that the friend forgot to write the sutra on the priest's ears so the ghost saw the ears, ripped them off and took them away. The priest remained earless but he was never bothered by ghosts again.

I'm not sure I appreciate the analogy of ghosts and Buddhist priests and sutras to my quilt...

Do I have to make a label for this?

Monday, February 23, 2009

Coming of Age Day

Someone mentioned that I had missed the whole Seijinshiki "Coming of Age Day" in January. True. Leiya is still 19. She'll be 20 this year and one officially becomes an adult at age 20 in Japan. So next January's "Coming of Age Day" will be the big one for her.

Already I am weekly getting telephone salespeople and "junk mail" telling me that I'd better hurry up and decide what we're going to do about Seijinshiki. Actually I think they're right. If Leiya is going to do this then we need to start thinking about it pretty soon.

What does it mean to become an adult? Unfortunately in Japan it SEEMS to mean that 20 is the age that the kids are legally allowed to drink. There should be more to becoming an adult than just being given free reign to get drunk. Cities throughout Japan will hold a special ceremony with the mayor and city officials welcoming the young people into adulthood. True, the speeches may be a bit dry and reflect on the seriousness of the responsibilities adulthood holds but everyone attends the ceremonies and there the big party starts. Every year we see on TV where the kids/new adults have gone completely wild with their drinking parties (in the middle of their ceremonies!) and have to be taken away by the police! Adults? Some of those kids haven't even gotten past the wild animal stage!

The other thing about Seijinshiki is that more than thinking about adulthood, the kids are having a grand reunion with friends from jr. high school days. In jr. high all the kids attended the local jr. high. In high school they all scattered to different high schools in the surrounding cities. And some of the kids go on to college or start working or have families. Seijinshiki is the time for everyone to get together and see what everyone has become. Party time for sure and yes, a great excuse to drink and loosen up a bit for the first awkward reunions.

Seijinshiki is also a time for the young people to get dressed up. Almost all the girls will wear kimono as do some of the boys too. Their one and only time probably since they were 7 (another tradition in Japan) and their own wedding day. This is where we've got to be foresighted.

Kimonos for girls run about $2000 to rent. Yes, rent. For one day. Sometimes you can keep the kimono longer for photographing purposes but Seijinshiki is only a couple of hours long anyway. Most of the kids shed their kimonos so that they can party more. Kimono shops have racks and racks of rental kimonos and all the implements needed to make a stunning outfit, but everyone is going to rent them at the same time right? So if you want to get a "good" kimono you've got to make your reservations early. That's why 11 months in advance I'm being encouraged to make an appointment for Leiya.

Very few people can actually put on (themselves) or dress (someone else) in kimono. You need a professional kimono dresser to do a good job of making the kimono tight but comfortable and beautiful too. Obis (wide brocade belts) are intricately tied in wonderful shapes. Hair has to be set and styled and make-up has to be applied perfectly. And then for all this work, photos must be professionally taken to record the great event (and absolutely beautiful girl!) So you can see where some of the $2000 goes. And of course insurance fees in case, heaven forbid, the girl spills a cup of coffee in her lap!

So. What are we going to do? Tetsu says if Leiya wants to come back for Seijinshiki and get dressed in kimono then by all means let's do it. Cost? We'll start saving. (Should have started 5 years ago!) But she's not going to be able to come back ahead of time and try on kimonos and put one on reserve for next January. She's going to have to leave that job to me and she isn't too thrilled about that. When we start talking about it I say...

"So you're going to make a quick trip back in January for Seijinshiki and skip college classes?"

and Leiya says,

"Forget it. It's not that important. Just coming back to Japan will cost too much. I don't really need to wear a kimono..."

But this is the only chance to get dressed up. This is the only chance all her friends will get together. It really is a big day in a Japanese young person's life, and Leiya is still a Japanese young person though she has spent the past 4 years in the States.

What to do? What to do? When Leiya was 7 we did the whole kimono deal for "Seven-Five-Three Day" and I balked at the cost of that too, but I am so happy that we splurged for that! I'm sure if Leiya comes back and dresses in kimono that we'll always be happy we made the effort for her...

By the way. This is a picture of Leiya and her friend Makie when they were seven years old on "Seven-Five-Three Day." Leiya is in the purple kimono, Makie in the pink.

And THIS is Makie at age 20 for her own Seijinshiki. Sigh.. Now isn't that a BEAUTIFUL young adult!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Quilting headaches

Well, yesterday ended on a frustrating note. I have come to the conclusion that amongst other things, I didn't pin very well when basting. The first day's quilting went so-so well (except for the two wrinkles) but yesterday was a killer. I had turned the quilt around and was working from the middle out to the edge but it seemed like every row would get a wrinkle and I rip it out and start again more carefully. Somewhere towards the edge the quilt would start pulling terribly against the pin! If I take out the pin there is going to be more slippage. But if I leave the pin in then there is going to be a wrinkle on top. I was stretching the dumb thing off the backing and the whole quilt was pulling on the bias, stretching on the top and wrinkling on the bottom! I took three rows out and re-pinned. No good. The next row was just as bad. HA! And I thought two wrinkles were going to be the extent of my problems!!!

So I dragged the whole quilt off the table and down onto the floor and re-pinned the part I wanted to work on this time with pins every inch or so! Lots and lots of pins!!! Let's just say if gremlins wanted to make my day difficult they did a good job. Cats would sit on the quilt, play with the pins. Pull the pins as I was pinning (more straightening up of the quilt). The lamp fell off the table twice as I was pushing the quilt around. The sewing machine decided it didn't want to work anymore. Probably in protest of the workout I was giving it! The bottom feet stopped working until I took the plate off and got down in there with a lint brush.

So the pin basting might be a lot of my problem. We didn't tape or pin the backing down at all. My friends and I never do and we've been hand basting quilts off of the tatami mats for years and never had this problem!

The polyester batting might be part of the problem but again, this is what we've used for years and and don't think any of us have ever noticed the slippage.

The placing of my sewing machine might be the problem. I have it on a low table which allows the quilt to rest on a table which is level. But the quilt only rests on the left side. It has nothing to rest on behind the sewing machine and I'm sure that must cause some pulling. But as cramped for space as I am I don't think there is anyway I can add more furniture to this room...

I feel a little sorry for my quilt. At least when I am hand quilting I admire my work and imagine how nicely this is going to turn out in a month or two. With the 365 Challenge I look at it as the enemy to be vanquished! Instead of admiring I groan at the new puckers or pulls. My sewing machine doesn't like me and now my quilt and I are at odds too!

I went to bed with a terrific headache last night and don't really know if the re-pinning is going to help things...

Oh, let's end on a happy note. Don't you think my two orangish cats look nice on the colorful 365?

Saturday, February 21, 2009


Yesterday morning we woke up to snow and Tetsu actually had to shovel the driveway! But it is almost gone now. Now everything is a muddy sludge.

I have lived mostly in Northern Japan. I had a short stay in Nagoya City when I came to Japan as a foreign student in college, and I spent a month in Kanazawa City at the same time. Kanazawa was my first experience of living in snow. (I visited in January). I remember getting excited about building a snowman.

The first three years that I lived in Japan I was in Morioka City which was considered the TIBET of Japan. Good glory! People in Morioka didn't even speak normal Japanese! (Very heavy countryside slang and accent). And cold!!! I lived on the back of a heater the first six months. And I wore spiked boots when walking around the town because I couldn't walk on the icy streets.

But Morioka wasn't the snowiest place I've ever lived. After Tetsu and I were married we moved to Akita Prefecture and that had much more snow (it's on the Western side of Japan which gets more snow). We lived in an apartment though so not that much snow shoveling to do.

After a year Tetsu was transferred to Yamagata Prefecture, again on the western side of Japan and that was the snow capital as far as I'm concerned! The entryways had double front doors so that you could get out of the cold and wind and shake off all the snow that had piled on you while you were outside. There were days when the snow covered the windows so that we couldn't see out. I remember having to climb out the second story window and shovel snow off the roof because the weight of the snow kept the inside doors from opening. (The news always carried stories of older houses that had collapsed because of snow weight.) In the town the streets were equipped with a sprinkler system and throughout the winter water was sprinkled on the main streets so that they would be clear for traffic. And to get to the main street Tetsu would shovel out from our front door to the street, leave the shovel there and in the evening shovel his way back home.

After a year in Yamagata Prefecture we moved to a major city, Sendai and were apartment dwellers again so no more snow shoveling and since then we've moved south somewhat. Utsunomiya City had very little snow and though Nikko City is colder and gets more snow, it doesn't compare with some of the other places we've lived. And global warming means less and less snow for Japan. Last year I shoveled snow just once and yesterday was an easy first for this year too. I guess I'd prefer being snowless. I'm a Southern California girl at heart.

On to other things. Thank you for the advice on the walking foot.

Sigh. The 365 looks pretty good. On the top... I have quilted half of it already; from the center out. I just turned the quilt over before continuing with the other half. I seem to have two large wrinkles right about the middle! Let's say I feel deflated. I thought I was doing so well and that the walking foot was going to solve my quilting problems but somehow I got those big 'ol wrinkles in there and so I have another "imperfect" quilt. RATS and DOUBLE RATS! I don't know what the problem is. Maybe I should have gone from edge to edge. Maybe I just should have pinned better or stretched the backing a little before pinning or who knows what. When I mess up a quilt I always just want to put it all away and forget I ever started. Ah well. Life is a learning process. I have learned that walking feet are not curealls. I don't know if I've learned WHY they are not curealls but I will labor on!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Walking foot

Yesterday Mrs. Ochiai came out and she picked up my walking foot and the little quilt arm that I'd ordered. Next to figure out how to use them.

Not too difficult. Thanks to the warnings from fellow bloggers about how to put a walking foot onto the machine we were able to attach it with very few problems. Made a trial run on some scraps and we were very happy with the results. Mrs. Ochiai bought a walking foot too so she was going home to try it on her machine also.

In the late afternoon I actually put my 365 Challenge into the sewing machine and started quilting! Lots of questions though that I hope someone can answer for me.

Last week my friends helped me saftey pin base my 365 Challenge but we weren't at all sure how far apart the pins should have been. I know more is better but we just sort of hodge-podged. How far apart are pins supposed to be placed for machine quilting? Will a walking foot hold a quilt securely without pins every two inches or so?

When hand quilting you start from the center and work out. How about with a quilting foot? I couldn't figure out if I was supposed to start at one edge of the quilt (in the center or at the side?) and then just quilt all the way across, or if I was supposed to start in the middle, sew to the edge, turn the quilt around and do the other side the same way.

I can see that the quilting foot is going to make straight and continuous lines very easy to sew. How about starts and stops? All my 365 Challenge strips will be easy to quilt up and down. I had thought that I would want to quilt in the ditch between the days too, ie. horizontal lines. But I can't figure out how I'm going to do that. The lines aren't continuous. Am I going to have stop at the beginning and end of each block? They don't even match up across so if I zip through the small vertical borders I'll end up with zig-zags. If I try to stay within a block I'll have to turn the quilt 45 degrees and restitch. But I don't think it is possible to turn this quilt in my small working space. Shall I just forget about the horizontal lines?

Another question. My friend who does some machine quilting sews in all the threads by hand at the beginning of the stitching and at the end. She "buries" the threads. My sewing machine has an automatic thread cutter. Should I just use that or am I really supposed to bury all those startings and endings?

Any advice on walking foot usage would be appreciated!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Trashy days

Yesterday was garbage day. Oh big thrill. Practically everyday Tetsu asks me in the morning what garbage day it is. Great way to start a conversation in the morning right?

The reason Tetsu checks with me is because putting out garbage is a big deal in Japan. In some ways Japanese are very environmental conscious. The first week I arrived in Japan over 30 years ago, I was lead to the communal kitchen that I would be using and was shown two garbage pails. One was marked "burnable garbage". The other "non-burnable garbage". My first Japanese lesson was to learn the Chinese characters for the two types of garbage and I was also instructed in what was burnable and what wasn't burnable. This is more complicated that it seems...

Let's see. On Tuesdays and Fridays we throw out normal, burnable garbage. All garbage has to be thrown out in opaque plastic trash bags. Black plastic bags (they were used for years) were banned from our city a few years ago. Everyone has to be able to SEE what everyone else is throwing out so that people don't sneak something non-burnable in there. There are garbage stations all over the neighborhood which are just areas marked off on empty lots with a net nearby to throw over the garbage. We are plagued by crows who scatter trash everywhere when they get a chance.

Twice a month on Wednesdays there is the "Non-burnable Trash Day". On these days all plastic bottles and glass and cans have to be washed and the paper and plastic removed and placed in their appropriate crates. BUT, other non-burnable trash such as Styrofoam meat trays have to be taken to the supermarket to be recycled as do waxed milk cartons and plastic grocery bags.

Once a month on Thursdays there is "Dangerous Garbage Day". This is the day to throw out aerosol cans (make sure they have a hole punched in them first), batteries and broken glass.

Another day is "Large Garbage Day". This is the day for electric appliances and furniture or bedding. Beyond a certain size you have to pay a fee for it to be taken away but smaller, "large" items can be thrown out free of charge.

Let's see. Once a month there is an "Old Paper Day". This is obviously for old newspapers, magazines and books. For some reason the papers can't be stuffed into paper sacks, they have to be tied properly which is odd because the newspaper companies give out paper sacks for disposal that we can't use.

Then there is garbage that doesn't fit in any category, rusted cans and parts of bicycles. Tire caps, broken signs. Most of this is stuff found along the streets or in the forest but you're not allowed to throw them out with everything else; that "ownerless garbage" gets taken away on specials days set aside for community service. If you can't wait for any of these days there are the wandering garbage men that drive around the neighborhoods with speakers on their pick-up truck and they announce that they will take away your old bicycles that day for a fee or on a different day they are picking up old papers (and for some reason for the paper they will give you a roll or two of toilet paper in exchange!)

And what if you don't pay attention to the garbage rules and put out your garbage on the wrong day? Tetsu has been accosted for leaving labels on our cans and I have had someone call me and tell me my garbage was out on the wrong day (they opened the bag and found a receipt with our name on it!) And twice a year I get to be Garbage Monitor for our garbage station and I go out there and make sure everyone is obeying the rules, shoo the crows away and pick up after the garbage men have come and gone.

Just another example of a community working together. Sometimes I think it would be easier on everyone if we just had private disposal services...

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Kindergarten and nursery school crafts

It is Wednesday and I have a full day which means I don't have to time to read blogs or answer comments or write. (Long time visitors probably already notice I disappear on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, Japan time).

So today a few pictures. No explanations or links to explanations (though I think I wrote about some these last year too.) These are from the kindergarten and nursery school I teach at. I just thought some of the activities were interesting.

These are pumpkins slices that the nursery school kids made out of clay. Don't they look real?

These are trying to be ogre masks. This was an art project at the nursery school for Setstubun which was a holiday at the beginning of February. The kids throw beans at the ogre who visits their house (usually Dad wearing a mask) and yell "Out with bad luck! In with good luck!"

This is an ongoing project at the kindergarten and the kids spend quite a bit of time learning how to braid and then SEWING the braids into a basket. My kids did this 20 years ago at the same kindergarten and I have still have the baskets somewhere in the closet.

Can you guess what this little boy and the kindergarten teacher are doing? She is teaching him how to sharpen a pencil with an exacto knife! Hey, I don't even know how to sharpen a pencil with an exacto knife! This is another activity my kids learned when they were in this kindergarten. I wonder if this skill has ever come in handy in the 15 or so years they've been out of kindergarten.

And here is some more clay modeling going on. The children are given a plastic form and then they make Girl's Day dolls while looking at the real ones that are up on display in the kindergarten. I hope to show those later this week.

Well I'm off for the day!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


I've a few patchwork blocks to show today though not all of them were made by me.

This is one of the Mini-Round Robin quilts made by the owner of the quilt. I'm not quite sure how the Mini-RR is going. Some people don't meet the deadlines and so we are having trouble keeping track of where the quilts are. Others have two that come in together unmarked so we don't know who they really belong to. (Makes it difficult to choose which block to make when you don't know who the person is.) I thought we had made it clear to pass along blocks in their envelopes but that instruction got lost somewhere as did the suggestion that the owner specify her preferences for colors or theme. Ah well, this is all going to be an adventure anyway! I hope everyone will be satisfied with their final products!

I made up this paper-pieced heart for the bazaar quilt. I am the only one in our group that does any paper-piecing and I don't think anyone else is very impressed with the process. I'm worried that this will get zilched because it might be too different from the other blocks people are making. There are quite a few Japanese books on paper-piecing but it hasn't really made a hit in Japan and none of my friends seem to be interested in learning. This was fun and fast to make.

And I put the finishing stitches into my Noah's Ark BOM! Yeah! These blocks were all so cute! Lynette has shown how these are all supposed to go together but I can't picture it yet. I hope those blocks all came out the right size!

I guess I am really a quilter at heart though I appreciate the embroidery and I think it adds a wonderful touch to quilted pieces. But on this last block I had to take out my contact lenses and work close up. Those reading glasses just weren't doing it for me! This may mark my last attempt at embroidery.

Monday, February 16, 2009


Once every couple of months or so Leiya catches me on chat and asks me to look over her latest college essay and make corrections. I find this interesting because when she was in jr. high and had English compositions or English speeches she wouldn't let me near her papers. Nowadays having a mother who will edit seems very convenient to her.

I am amazed that both of my kids are able to write 5 or 6 pages in any language and I never dreamed that they would be able to write essays in English. Neither child much liked studying English though they understood it well enough and spoke it in a pinch. I used to worry that my kids would grow up, fly the nest and except for the telephone I'd never hear from them again because we didn't have a common written language. My efforts at learning the Japanese language lasted until I was fairly fluent in conversation but I sort of gave up at the reading/writing stage. I made attempts both times the kids went through 1st and 2nd grade but they left me far behind and I've never gone back to truly studying Japanese.

But now my kids write English!!! They write e-mails to me in English!!! And we "chat" in English too! So I wasted a lot of years worrying about whether I was going to be able to keep in touch with them someday (and who knew that the computer with voice mail and visual "chat" would be in the future.)

Back to Leiya's college papers.

"Mom, could you check this for me? I need it back right away. I have to turn this in today."

"Okay, let me look it over."

Leiya will e-mails her essays to me and although she's pretty good, reading through the paper, confirming some of her ideas and then explaining my corrections can take some time.

Before I get done Leiya will often be on chat saying,

"Is it that bad?"

No. It isn't. I'm very proud of Leiya and her ever improving English skills.

Today I turned the tables on her. I needed to decline an invitation to a local elementary school's event. I could have phoned and said "sorry, I can't come" but I thought it would be more polite to answer in writing. Ooh! Do I regret that I didn't study more Japanese! I find it amazing that I can speak the language but get hung up on all of the prepositions! This morning I sent Leiya an e-mail.

"Leiya, can you do me a favor? Do you have time to correct my essay?"

That got a laugh out of her! So I sent it and she looked it over and she had to confirm what I was really trying to say. I was running behind schedule and needed my essay/letter back right away.

"Is it that bad?"

Leiya I appreciate more than ever what a great job you are doing at college and all the language hurdles you've managed to haul yourself over!

And thanks for correcting my essay this morning!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Straight jacket

Anyone visiting for the first time is going to look at these pictures and think "What is that?" Come to think of it, even regulars are going to think "What is that?"

Chip got her stitches taken out yesterday and I got a little information about the mummy outfit she was wearing. I asked my vet if this was a normal Japanese way of tying up a cat or if it was his own invention. It was his father-in-law's invention (also a vet) and his mother-in-law still makes cat ties for their pet hospital. He was very pleased that many of my blog visitors had been impressed with Chip's outfit. He even showed me how they were made. Now I know not many blog visitors are ever going to need to know how to make a kitty straight-jacket but I took pictures so here they are.

The gauze cloth, which is as long as an average cat, has been folded in half and then cut at regular intervals. Holes are cut for four legs and a small V in the back that allows the fabric to give and doesn't get in the way of bathroom usage. My vet said he occasionally makes larger jackets for dogs but many dogs get don't like being wrapped so it doesn't always work well for them.

Chip didn't mind the jacket at all when she was wearing it but she seems to be happy she can do some serious grooming without now.

You have to admit my posts are diverse if nothing else.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Winding Ways Flimsy

I think I finished the Winding Ways quilt! At least it's a flimsy. I think I'm happy with it. I took everyone's advice and ironed down the border, and then appliqued the arcs to it. I used glue to hold everything down and it worked very well.

I chose the dyed border fabric and went back and forth about whether I was going to put the gradations going horizontally or vertically against the center of the quilt but the many lines made it too busy so even though the gradations aren't completely straight (and I had to piece occasionally) I think this brings out the center better.

Can you tell that I changed one of the pieces in that bottom green circle? (In the Winding Ways III post it was the original way). It used to be blue but when I'd put it all together it just jumped out at me too much. (I had thought it would be good against the dark border). Anyway I CHANGED it. And WHAT A JOB! Are you going to accuse me of being a perfectionist? I figured if I didn't change it now, I'd forever look at the quilt and only see the blue piece down there. So I ripped up the border and did the lower part again.

Now I get to make decisions on how to do the quilting. I'm thinking of using a walking foot and quilt inside the circles. I have to buy a walking foot first though... Any advice on how to use one of those?

That was one FUN quilt! I've got the batiks. Do I want to do this again?