Friday, April 30, 2010


Let's see... What's new today? I finally got around to making a reservation to go to the States this year. I don't know why I procrastinate so much.

It used to be (for nearly 30 years) that I'd just call a travel agent in Tokyo who handled missionary and church tour reservations. They weren't especially cheap but after 30 years, though I never met the lady who always took care of me, they knew the quirks of my family.

"Tanya has US citizenship. The two children have dual. The husband has Japanese. They want to go to the States before the rates go up but not so much that the kids miss too much school. The husband will only stay 5 days. Mother and children will stay a month." etc. etc.

I just had to call and say my name and the lady would go into action for me and make the decisions, send me tickets and airport cards and any other pertinent information.

But my personal travel agent retired three years ago and I decided to try online reservations. That may have been a mistake.

I can't make decisions. For the past three years my travel planning goes thus...

"Do I want to go on the 12th? or the 13th? Is this airlines better than that one? Why is there a cost difference? Oh dear. What if I need to change my flight?"

It is probably a very simple process but I do better when people just say "this is the way it is."

And then there is the problem of working in Japanese. I am not going to push buttons to buy a plane ticket when it is all in Japanese!

So I get Tetsu involved and he doesn't like Internet to begin with and doesn't have any experience arranging plane tickets either. We end up having mild arguments how to fill in data, frustrations about why the website won't accept data (duh. They don't want it filled out in English, they want it filled out in Japanese) plus my inherent non-ability to type in numbers correctly. It probably would be worth paying the travel agent extra just to avoid the headaches...

I THINK I've made arrangements to go to California on July 11th. I hope.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Golden Week start

Golden Week has started from today. No school and most of Japan is in transit making using of the four or five days of holiday. I don't know what all the days are... May 5th is Boys' Day (the flying carp you know) but the others elude me. Some people are off from school and work today and making use of the weekend also but as usual Tetsu is working. Gives me more time to sew.

I've finished the inner block of my applique quilt and it now sports a dog and a doghouse on the bottom half. I've got a bird's nest in the tree too! I guess the nightingales in the forest these days inspired me (but those are brown aren't they?) Can't show my quilt yet... Today I'm putting in a border and thinking about how to quilt this...

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Blueberry and Cream Frappuccino

In some ways Tetsu and I are a pretty typical middle aged couple in Japan. We go our own ways during the week. Tetsu works long hours. We argue about stupid things.

But occasionally I will notice things that maybe other Japanese husbands won't do for their wives that Tetsu will do for me and vice versa. Most Japanese men don't spend a lot of time in the kitchen. In Tetsu's generation mothers told their sons to stay out of the kitchen.

However I lucked out and have a husband who cleans the kitchen for me every morning. When I come home from being out at the school, I find a sparkling kitchen. It really starts the day off for me and I am grateful for my uncommon Japanese husband.

On Sunday, Tetsu had to work and after church I went into the next town to do some shopping. On the way home I stopped at Starbucks and bought Tetsu a Venti Blueberry and Cream Frappuccino with lots of whipped cream and then delivered it to him at work. Tetsu was slightly embarrassed to find me at the front door though he appreciated the Frappuccino, and the office ladies thought this was great fun. I guess the conversation for the next hour was about how a Japanese wife would NEVER turn up at her husband's workplace with a yummy gift of endearment (hey, it was a Sunday!).

But the office ladies had a good laugh and I earned a lot of points in Tetsu's book. I'd say 580 yen for a Frappuccino was good investment.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Button hole applique

I've started another small quilt. Another friend lost her canine family member and I want to make a quilt for her but maybe not so "memorial" looking. Maybe a fun type of quilt...

So I started combing my children's book collection for cute dog pictures and I tried my hand at drawing doggie cartoons. I'm not much of an artist so I crumpled up a lot of scratch paper. But in the end, I came up with an idea and Saturday the sewing began.

First background. I've got all those strings in a bin so I sewed those together first. A lot of blue. Some streaks of yellow. A little brown at the bottom.

Then I started appliqueing a tree trunk and leaves. My last tree for the Mini-Round Robin worked out so well that I've been sort of proud of myself. But because this is a "fun" quilt and will be juvenile looking, I opted for button hole applique rather than needle turn and as of this morning my tree has been applied. I hope I can get to the dog part of all this tonight.

I'm having fun!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

I am what I am

There is a Japanese phrase that I like a lot "Okagesamade". It means

"I am what I am because of you."

Japanese will use it when speaking about accomplishments or results or small successes in life.

I am what I am because of you.

Sometimes I think I should put this as my header for this blog. I am a quilter because of other bloggers that I have visited and who visit me. True, I have quilted a lot longer than I've blogged but because of Anne and Colleen I've made bazaar quilts. Because of Tonya I've relaxed about piecing and discovered the world of wonky. Because of Bonnie I have boxes of Leaders and Enders. Because of Elaine my machine quilting has developed.

Hmm... I could start naming all my blog friends here... Julia, Shasta, Allie, Annie, Brenda Lou and "Joe" all have inspired me, encouraged me, given to me, taught me. And and I am what I am not just in quilting. My thoughts flitter to what Mrs. Goodneedle, Nancy, Callie and Meggie write about. My prayers are for Rae Ann, June and Pat.

I am what I am because of you. Thank you.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Kitty quilts (and some houses)

Yesterday I was "teaching" patchwork. I have no idea how one teaches patchwork. It seems like if you give a person a needle, thread, fabric and a pattern and then tell them to sew the pieces together in a certain order, then the teaching part is done and what is left is the doing part. This theory may be the reason why I am not usually a patchwork teacher.

Two of my long time friends decided that they wanted to do some patchwork. Actually, Mrs. Nakazawa really wanted to do patchwork and Rumi-san came along for the ride. Rumi-san admires patchwork but she isn't particularly nuts about it like Mrs. Nazakawa may turn out to be. Mrs. Nakazawa said that she has done some simple patchwork before and had made a couple schoolhouse quilts ...

Excuse me? That's no beginning patchwork! Mrs. Nakazawa doesn't need a patchwork teacher, she just needs inspiration!!

Mrs. Nakazawa first visited me a couple months ago and saw my cat quilt on the wall. Mrs. Nakazawa is the person whose shoulder I cry on when cat woes overwhelm me. She is the cat lady of her neighborhood! Anyway, she saw my cat quilt and decided she wanted to make one of the blocks. And Rumi-san said she'd be willing to try the block too. I "taught" them how to make templates and how to piece and sent them both home with instructions to make one block.

Rumi-san followed directions and made one block and even got it quilted and framed yesterday. Yeah! Rumi-san! She went home with a stiff neck from doing the quilting.

Mrs. Nakazawa went wild and made lots and lots and lots of kitty blocks! Yesterday I helped her put a border on it, and showed her how to use a quilting hoop. Her homework is to quilt it and then she plans to put eyes and whiskers on some of the kitty shapes.

Cleo thoroughly approves!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Monster in the livingroom

The weather is crazy in Japan this week. Snow on Saturday, sunny and cool on Monday and Tuesday. Like summer on Wednesday and then yesterday a freezing rain. Can you believe that though I had a free day to go up into the sewing room (cold up there) I opted to stay down in the warm living room and quilt for hours.

Sigh. Sometimes I read blogs where the bloggers write about the Monster in the Living room. I had never heard that term before. But I guess I've got my own monster here and it looks like it will be around quite awhile longer. So WHEN did I start my feathered star quilt? (Sometime at the end of 2006. I'm so embarrassed!) And WHEN did I start quilting it? (About this time last year.) It has sat on the edge of my chair now for months and months sometimes getting a token stitch in after weeks of neglect, sometimes getting quite a serious quilting session like yesterday. I've finished stitch-in-the-ditch quilting and the motif work in the star blocks. Now to start on the sashing. My finger is sore today!

The trouble with a monster in the living room is that it takes up space and in a Japanese living room that's quite a percentage of living space. The other problem is that it has sat here so long that it is filthy!!! The cats climb in and under the quilting hoop leaving cat fur everywhere. The quilt drags on the floor as I turn the hoop and can be considered a satisfactory dry mop! Choco steps on whatever is dragging on the floor and leaves muddy footprints here and there! And don't forget the time Vel peed on it because it was so much a part of the room!

I hate to think what shape this quilt is going to be in when it finally gets done. (Give me another year.) My monster is going to have scales and warts and be puffing fumes!

Thursday, April 22, 2010


Choco is a very unreliable dog. She has lived with us for over 4 years yet she hasn't really calmed down all that much. True, she no longer tries to eat cats. Chip (our smallest kitty) is a lot more strong willed than Choco and will come up to Choco and bat her in the nose. This leads to scrambling away from Choco and a lot of barking. The other cats keep their distance.

With strays you always wonder what kind of life they led before they joined your family. Were they loved (I guess not if they got dumped in the forest). Did they go through a period of hardship before finding their way to your home?

Some of Choco's background we know about.

She was adopted from the local zoo and lived the first 6 months of her life in a young woman's bedroom. Choco was never trained and the rest of the family didn't like her. As Choco got bigger the young woman's father banned the dog from the house and since Choco barked so much she was tied to a post in an empty lot.

When I found Choco she had been missing from her home a week. The young woman had contacted the animal shelter looking for her and so we assumed Choco was wanted. But when the owner came to pick her up, the young woman burst into tears and said that her father had told her to leave the dog in the mountains somewhere. Would I take her instead? The young woman said there was no leash, no dog bowl, no dog house that Choco could claim as her own. We changed Choco's name just so that she would forget her old life completely.

Choco hates children. Just the sound of their voices will send her cowering and barking. She hates white pick-up trucks so I think her former owner had a pick-up truck or maybe the disapproving father had one. Choco hates water and the sound of Tetsu watering the yard with the hose will make her start trembling and she will try to hide. I have a feeling she's been sprayed with a hose every time she barked in her empty lot.

Yesterday morning I walked by the window dressed in my crosswalk guard uniform. Choco became completely undone and she lunged and pulled and could not be consoled. I talked to her from the window... She should recognize my voice at least if not my figure, but though she was happy when Tetsu came to the window, she was beyond reasoning with me. Dumb dog. I wonder what connections she makes with uniforms...

And then in the afternoon I found her sitting out in front of our house after breaking her leather collar. Granted the collar was old but it was probably all that morning craziness that caused the leather to snap later in the day (and Choco's constant pulling and barking at passersby.) I am SO glad she didn't go after anyone though maybe she is all bark and little bite. We've yet to have a serious incident but there have been some close calls. She really is unreliable but I love her anyway. I don't know why. She doesn't seem to like me when I'm wearing my uniform...

(Post script: Thank you, Kristine. I smudged my telephone number after you mentioned it... It never occurred to me.)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Who gets the newspaper first?

Toi: "What? A newspaper is an important part of every morning? Let me try it. Yes, it does make a satisfyingly crinkly sound."

Patora: "It's pretty comfortable facing this way too."

Toi and Patora got to the newspaper before Tetsu.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Day's outing

Tetsu and I went out for a picnic at a far away park because there were some flying carp being displayed for children to touch. It was a quick stop for us because once taking a couple pictures and eating our convenience store lunch boxes we were ready to go home.

I suppose someday we will join the throngs of grandparents chasing after their grandchildren and pushing strollers but both Tetsu and I felt a little out of place.

Message to Takumi and Leiya. We are not in any hurry!

And Tetsu wants me make note that we managed to get to the park and back without getting lost once!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

I'm a world traveler!

This weekend I made numerous stops in Egypt, France, New York, Germany etc. etc. Around the world in two hours!

On Friday, Lorraine and I had a free afternoon and so I decided to take her to a theme park not too far from me which I have really enjoyed. It is somewhat educational and sort of fun to see different architectural structures of the world. Not some place that I would go to alone, but if someone is here from out of town it seems like a nice place to visit.

Let's see. We visited Paris and the Eiffel tower.

Then made a quick stop at the Vatican.

Saw a beautiful castle in Germany.

And said hello to the Sphinx in Egypt.

Hey, I think I could climb a pyramid this size!

Lorraine made a jaunt up to the Great Wall of China.

And visited one of the famous temples of Japan. (She'd visited this one in person too.)

And while in Japan we visited one of the castles.

A quick stop at the Colosseum.

And we paid our respects to the Twin Towers in New York.

There was lots more to see and though it was a cold day Lorraine and I wandered around taking pictures for a couple of hours.

We marveled at the billions of tiny people placed in city scenes and scenic areas. It was amazing to see all the well manicured "grounds" at each of the world's architectures all trimmed back like miniature bonsai.

Some workers had their blueprints out and were putting some final touches on Japan's Tokyo Sky Tree that will grace the Tokyo skyline from 2012.

Well, I may never get to all these places for real but I can let my imagination take me anywhere!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Show and Tell

This morning we woke up to snow! Amazing! No walk for Choco today. Too wet, too cold, too slushy and drippy.

I had a great two days with Lorraine but where should I begin? Back on Thursday at Mrs. Furui's house. A couple of the ladies brought their quilts and flimsys to share with us.

Mrs. Harada has been working on a circle quilt and a few months ago she asked for pinks and green scraps from the rest of us. This is what she brought on Thursday and was asking advice for the border. She seems to think that this is now too pink and wants to tone the quilt down with a light green border. We auditioned some greens from Mrs. Furu's stash and everyone gave an opinion but no decisions made.

Mrs. Okutomi brought a blue bed cover flimsy that she was hoping to have basted for her but time ran short so this went home in the same bag that she brought it in. I think she said she's made an identical one for her husband's bed also.

Lorraine showed us her transportable hand work that she's been working on while she is visiting Japan. These are blocks for a Japanese Peace crane quilt that she is making. Again, Lorraine introduced us to a completely new technique of using foundation interfacing when hand piecing these blocks. She's left the instructions with me so I'll have to give this a try.

Mrs. Furui managed to put together a bed cover for her niece using the Broken Star pattern that I had shown her last month. Remember, the prayer quilt I'd made was sort of crazy and you had to look to find the stars. Mrs. Furu's is very organized and the blue stars stand out so nicely. She is hand quilting this quilt and it is in the final stages.

And yesterday I took a trip around the world! And with that bit of information I leave you hanging until tomorrow!

(oops. I lost my signature today...)

Friday, April 16, 2010

Lorraine's here!

Yesterday about 9 of us met at Mrs. Furui's house to do some basting. Poor Mrs. Furui probably stayed up all night getting our bazaar quilt to flimsy stage! The day before I had handed her the last embroidered corner of this quilt and flippantly said,

"It would be nice if this could be basted on Thursday so that Mrs. Okutomi can take it home to quilt. Then WE don't have to think about it anymore."

Mrs. Okutomi lives a couple of hours away and we only get to see her two or three times a year. She hasn't been able to do too much work on the bazaar quilt up until now but we assured her that we'd leave the quilting for her to do. (Not that she really WANTED to do the quilting. She just felt bad that she wasn't helping us too much and since she is the only one who knows how to machine quilt, we delegated the job to her.)

So after I gave the corner to Mrs. Furui she put the corner borders on and put it all together and even made the final wide border. I'd forgotten that there even WAS a final wide pieced border.

But the quilt is beautiful and we were so happy to be able to show it to Lorraine who had sent us the Block of the Month kit to begin with. It is thanks to Lorraine that we were able to learn the faux applique technique and were introduced to colored pencils and sealing and embroidery etc. This is really Lorraine's quilt and we are so proud to be able to raffle off an Australian designed quilt this year!

After a lot of hugs and welcomings we all, Lorraine included, set to work on basting the quilt. A lot of hands makes for fast and fun work. People threading needles, 4 or 5 people sitting on the quilt basting, some ladies getting tea and lunch ready, a lot of chatting (and some of these friends really can use their English with Lorraine! I don't know why they don't use it when they are with me!)

More tomorrow!