Saturday, April 30, 2011

Quilting safety pins

I received a surprise package in the mail this week. Leiya's high school best friend's mother and grandmother sent me some quilting safety pins! What a wonderful surprise and so sweet of them to notice that I NEEDED pins! I guess I mentioned that I was running out of pins with all the projects I'm trying to do at once and though they are non-quilters, they went to the fabric store and asked,

"What on earth are quilting safety pins?"

(Same question Tetsu asked when I told him that Julie and her mother had sent me pins.)

I wish I could be so considerate as to notice what people might "need". I tend to do things for people when they ask or because it would be something I'D appreciate, or something I'D like.

Also in the package were some stork scissors! My very first pair!

Thank you Julie, and thank you Julie's mother! Thank you for pins and scissors and for letting Leiya into your home and for taking her to and from college and for just being there when she needs family.

Thank you for thinking of us.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Blue Sheets

My friend Lorraine reminds me that I haven't said much about the earthquake and radiation situation here in Japan recently. That's good right?! Yes... I suppose we are not so much on the edge anymore but that is not to say that things have improved, just that we are getting tired of worrying about the situation.

Radiation levels vary as the days go by and as the wind changes. In my area spinach and greens are slowly being returned to the local vegetable shops. I still have friends who try not to go outside much and a few of us had a conversation about the wisdom of airing our futon outside nowadays.

This is a daily custom... to hang the big heavy cotton futon/mattresses and other bedding out over the veranda rails or over poles in the yard. The airing of futon in the sun makes the heavy cotton fluffy again, kills mites and varmints that might be living in the cotton and makes the bedding smell fresh. Good Japanese housewives will air their futon in the sun daily. (You can also use a futon blower that is supposed to do the same as above except for the fresh sunny smell.)

BUT, because of the radiation scares some people are hesitant about leaving the bedding outside for most of the day. "To do or not to do... that is the question." Are we more concerned about radiation or about mites? You can see that I choose not to be concerned about radiation. My futon are out there this morning! (If truth be told, I'm not concerned about mites much either... My futon do NOT get aired daily. Bad Japanese wife!)

Other recent conversations with my friends have been about what insurance will or will not pay. For the first month we were all too shell shocked to think about repairing things. So many people just completely lost their homes or their loved ones that it seemed petty to think about repairing a roof or a wall or something. But repairs have to be made and it is going to take a lot of time and money.

Tetsu and I only had to have an antenna re-attached. We do not have earthquake insurance anyway and our minor repair is hardly worth speaking of. But even in my area, along my daily walks with Choco, I can see evidence of earthquake damage. There is a shortage of Blue Sheets in Japan right now!!!

Blue sheets are heavy polyethylene sheets made for industrial or agricultural use. They are wrapped over farm machinery, tied over outdoor sheds, even used as a picnic "blanket" when going cherry blossom viewing. Blue sheets are sturdy, won't tear and are waterproof. Within days of the earthquake, blue sheets began popping up all over the countryside. The homes with tiled roofs were hit the hardest because the earthquake jarred loose tiles on top which fell onto the lower tiles and like a domino effect, the whole roof's tiles came tumbling down or broke apart. The more expensive homes and farmhouses all have tile roofs (not I!) and with the crumbling of roofs came the need to protect the houses from rain. Thus the blue sheets.

Unfortunately, the number of houses needing to have their roofs repaired is innumerable and the tile makers and tile layers are just beginning to get to the houses. And putting in a new roof or even repairing one is extremely costly so the insurance companies get into the picture. Will insurance cover or not? How much? And WHEN will these repairs take place? Not for months and months and months... and we are headed into the rainy season.

Japan's scenery has changed with rooftops of blue reflected in the flooded fields.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Pre school lunches

Every other Monday when I go to the pre-school, I finish up just about the time the children are getting ready for lunch. There is a kitchen at the pre-school and lunch is prepared for about 100 people. I've never eaten lunch there but it always looks delicious! Over the past few weeks I've snapped a couple pictures of the day's lunch.

Let's see... One day it was udon noodles and meatballs. The yellow slice in the noodle bowl is a sweet omelet. The white and pink slices are pieces of steamed fish cake. Dessert was an orange section.

Another day spicy tofu and grilled fish was served. It looks like there were some simmered radish pieces and also a glass noodle (rice flour noodles) salad. On another tray there was rice and miso soup laid out ready to serve too.

Actually this lunch was taken at the kindergarten where I go every Wednesday. The kindergarten requires parents to send their children to kindergarten with a lunchbox everyday but once a month there is a kitchen crew who makes a special birthday lunch. I received a lunch too that day and I got to sample the day's fare. Sticky red bean rice (celebration food) lotus root salad, some greens in sesame sauce and a strawberry.

Pretty healthy lunches don't you think?! As far as I know the children don't seem to have a problem with all the vegetables and fish. When my kids were in kindergarten Leiya never liked the red bean rice and she brought it home each month. In elementary school, school lunches were/are mandatory and though Leiya had many likes and dislikes she was only allowed to leave one thing on her plate... She learned to eat foods she didn't like... (or sneakily passed them on to friends who did like them.)

The last picture is back at the pre-school. The teachers eat the same lunch as the children (a bit larger portions?) and these cuties were bringing lunches to the pre-school principal and director. Don't spill anything!

It looks like that day's lunch was more noodles, kiwi fruit and Chinese spring rolls! YUM! Yogurt for dessert.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

"Let me see too!"

"Mom! Mom! There's a bug in the house!"

"Mom! There's a bug in the house and it's buzzing!"

"MOM!! There's a buzzing bug in the house and Patora is trying to eat it!!! I don't think that's a good idea."


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Another prayer quilt

I'm racing around madly this morning. And it isn't even Wednesday!

Yesterday I devoted the afternoon to making a prayer quilt for one of our older church members who has been under the weather for the past month or so. Probably a combination of age and stress about a lot of things. She has always had faithful attendance but since the earthquake is hesitant to leave her house. She will also be having cataract surgery next week so I asked if I could make her a quilt.

"You'd make a prayer quilt for me? Thank you."

I wanted to get the flimsy done in time to hand it over to my friend Kaoru-san today. She will take it home and sew on the binding and maybe put in the tying threads. It is nice to have a relay team to make quilts with.

Hopefully by next Sunday we can have the church members pray over this and tie the strings... And then get it delivered in time for our friend's surgery.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Wicked Easy Quilts

I counted up the number of quilts I need to do or want to do in the next couple weeks. Eight! I'd better get sewing!

Thursday, Mrs. Ochiai came over and we worked on some Wicked Easy Quilts. Mrs. Ochiai has been wanting to make this quilt (because it is so easy) but hadn't decided on colors. And then my friend, Jane sent me the wonderful, vibrant, watermelon pink fabrics and Mrs. Ochiai asked if she could use some of those! Great! The two of us can make tandem quilts! (Mine for donation.)

So Thursday, the two of us measured and cut and sewed. AS USUAL, I mis-read numbers and dang-it-all if we didn't cut one piece, 1/2 inch too small. One piece? Hah! 24 pieces! We'd layered fabrics and cut them all out before I found my error! Oh glory! Why is it I absolutely always do this!?

"Measure Twice, Cut Once"?

I need to put up on my wall,

"Read Directions Aloud With Someone Looking Over Shoulder Thrice and THEN Measure Twice, Cut Once".

The nice thing about sewing with Mrs. Ochiai or any veteran quilter is that mistakes don't throw them.

"So, there's not enough fabric... Okay, I'll just add a bit more of something different at this end. It will make the quilt more interesting."

When teaching a novice quilter I start sweating and my student looks at me hopefully as I try to figure out how to remedy my mistake. Mrs. Ochiai just dove in. And by the end of the day she had her Wicked Easy Quilt put together.

I worked on mine yesterday and finally got it to the same flimsy stage. Neither Mrs. Ochiai nor I have room to lay our quilts out to photograph them well... But here is a crop of both quilts. I opted to add darker yellow squares to cover up my measuring boo-boo.

Mrs. Ochiai is purchasing backing for both of our quilts this week and we'll get together this Thursday too.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter

Happy Easter!

Easter has not made it to Japan. No Easter eggs, no bunnies, absolutely no Resurrection! Even in our church our Easter celebration is going to be a service... sushi lunch boxes and then a budget congregational meeting. A meeting?! On Easter?! (But I'm one of the elders who decided the date so I can't complain...)

Mrs. Furui is in the Easter spirit by decorating her house with her display of Easter eggs. When she lived in Europe she collected many fancy eggs and at this time of year her house takes on a European feel (I guess... I've never been in a European house.)

On Thursday Y-kun came proudly to English bearing daffodils from his garden and a big smile. Spring has arrived!

My little cross vase from Marlene is my only Easter decoration but it does show off Y-kun's daffodils very nicely!

Wishing you a wonderful Easter Sunday! The Lord is risen indeed!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

My treasures

Things are still down off of the top of the cupboards since the earthquake and I have been sorting through things and throwing things away. I came across a couple pieces of Tetsu's artwork...

All three of these Tetsu made for me before we were married. The first one looks like a big card but actually it is 6 postcards that he designed and painted for me and then sent to me each day a week before my birthday.. There are a few English phrases on there... directly copied from an English dictionary... One of the very few attempts that Tetsu has ever made into the English language. Let's see... at the top it says

"I wish to express my hearty congratulations on your happy birthday".

Another says

"Adversity makes a man wise."

How romantic!

I'm afraid I can't read what a couple of the other phrases say... But the message is there! Tetsu sent this to me about 6 months after we started dating. (Notice that my name is spelled according to the Japanese syllabary...

6 months later I got a Christmas "card" from Tetsu, all carved out of wood and painted in his favorite florescent colors.

And 6 months after that another birthday greeting again carved on a wooden board and brightly painted. Tetsu included friends' names on this one and he got the spelling of my name right this time. I even got a small heart there at the top!

You can see how Tetsu spent two years capturing MY heart. We were married the next year.

I haven't gotten florescent cards and wood hangings since before we were married... but Tetsu makes me wonky cat houses and ironing boards and sewing bookcases and kitchen cupboards though not so colorful. (I think I asked him to tone down his color sense.)

These "treasures" are going back up on top of the cupboard.

Friday, April 22, 2011


A couple of days ago I took in four packages to the post office to mail off to different parts of the world (old obis right?)

Ah, here comes Mrs. Watanabe with her irregularly wrapped packages and tape sticking out everywhere... (There was one time when one of the girls offered to re-wrap my package for me.)

I plunked my packages down on the counter, and filled out my forms while the girl weighed each package and applied the usual tape-ticket stamp thingy.

"Um... Excuse me... Could I have stamps on my packages instead of the tape-ticket thingy? Stamps are so much prettier and I think my friends in other countries would like to receive a package with Japanese stamps."

The post office girl apologized profusely, asking forgiveness for not giving more consideration to my packages. She carefully peeled the tape-ticket thingies off my packages and brought out pretty stamps for me to choose from.

"You could use a combination of these and for this package you will need twelve 80 yen stamps and four 50 yen stamps. Or you could use one 300 yen stamp and six 8o yen stamps plus two 50 yen stamps and a couple 20 yen stamps too..."

I was having a field day.

"Ooh! I like this one and this one and I want to include a couple of these and maybe this one too... And for this package that a child is going to get, I want the stamps with cartoon characters!"

I had stamps all over the counter and the girl was giving me free range to divide stamp packages and sheets the way I wanted. (I think they must be giving me special privileges. Normally I wouldn't think you'd hand a customer a box of stamps and let her pick and choose and paw through everything... I've been going to this post office for over 15 years.)

Each of my four packages had different amounts of stamps laid out on them and arranged as I liked. I'm sure the post office people were happy when I finally left.

Yesterday I was back at the post office. Different girl but she nodded knowingly about the four packages I'd sent the day before. I must be a post office gossip topic.

"You would like stamps right? Here are some different ones from yesterday." And she handed me more boxes of stamps.

I was tearing apart a sheet that I especially liked that had a scene of Japan with stamps on the bottom.

"Oh, this is so nice. It seems a shame to tear the stamps away from the pretty picture. Can I just put the whole sheet on my package? On the back of my package? (no room on the front.)

"Oh yes, you can do whatever you'd like just as long as the stamps are on there."

So I made up four more packages all with pretty stamps plastered everywhere some with stamps on the back.

I warned the post office girls that I'm coming back with more packages again today... They were very nice to smile at me and say that they looked forward to helping me again.

I really ought to make a batch of cookies for the nice post office girls.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Mirror, mirror

This morning Choco had a tummy ache and so at 4:00am I was taking her out for a potty run. After taking her out, bringing her back, taking her out again, I finally gave up and at 4:30 just took her for a walk.

So that was NOT good, (but Choco is fine now) but I did take my camera and when there was enough light at 5:00 I snapped pictures of the flooded rice fields.

Was this picture worth taking? Not enough light yet...

Not all of the fields are flooded but the farmers are filling them and driving their tractors through them and then the planting will start. There is only a week or so of flooded fields with no rice planted and this is when the landscape looks like someone has laid down mirrors all over the countryside.

If it is a windy day we won't see the mirror effect. If there is too much soil debris or the water is too low, we won't see the mirror effect. If the sky is too bright, we won't see the mirror effect. It is only when the fields are first flooded, the rice yet to be planted, the breeze is still, and the sky is overcast but softly bright, that this lovely scenery appears.

Thank you Choco for persuading me to go see God's beauty in the early hours...

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Alphabet Soup Finished!

Wow, there are so many of you donating and requesting certain obis. Thank you so much. I am taking the ones chosen off of my sidebar and now my job will be to package them and send them off. I am so terrible at wrapping! My packages always look like something a kindergartner might make. Reflects on my sloppy personality.

Joan and Beatrice, I don't seem to have e-mail access for you both. Could you please send me your e-mail address? You are both on no-reply right now. You can find my e-mail address if you click the sidebar profile (About Me).


I am happy to announce that I have finished my batik quilt. Alphabet Soup! There were a lot of challenges involved in this but I seem to have plowed through them and gone to completion.

Color choices were easy thanks to Jay who sent me a storehouse of batiks. These fabrics are mostly from him. The pattern was a simple one that seemed to show off fabrics well. The problems came with machine quilting!

I don't feel very confident about my machine quilting but I must admit that I'm through the nervous stage and now into the enjoyment stage. But this quilt is a big quilt and I didn't think I could tackle such a size on my little domestic machine. I made up the top in four pieces and went ahead and basted them separately for quilting.

I knew I wanted to try feathers and I marked off a wavering line in chalk and then quilted in feathers freehand. Not bad. I did get lost a couple of times but don't look closely.

After advice from Lorraine I quilted a small border pattern freehand and went on to do flowers.

And THEN I put the four quarters together. The back is such a patchwork piece itself! There wasn't enough of the blue when I went to the store, so I added pink to my shopping cart and sewed the two together. But when making each backing, there wasn't enough fabric in places so I was cutting and adding until who knows why this backing turned out this way!

I sewed the front together. I trimmed the batting and roughly sewed it together. I turned the seam under on the backing and hem stitched it down. THREE TIMES! My friend Mrs. Okutomi says she'd rather quilt a big quilt than do the connecting work. She may be right!

Next I chose a quilting pattern from Feathered Fibers and tried my hand on the small border. Oh good! I can quilt even a large quilt if it is only the edge! And back pouring over the photos on Feathered Fibers and I blatantly copied one of her border patterns. (Feathered Fibers really does her quilting on a long arm but I managed to use some of her ideas.)

I am so happy with the way the borders turned out! I used a chalk pencil again to draw in wavy lines and then drew in some feathers too but more often than not I'd get lost so the feathers are also basically freehand.

Yeah!!! Finished!!! I have yet to make a label and I'd better not put it off too long because I tend to get quilts with no labels on them. You may see this quilt again because I'm going to ask Mrs. Ochiai to photograph it with her wonderful camera this week.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Obi and Kimono

Vel came back last night around 6:00. Even though I was trying to take the advice to let cats be cats, I kept looking out the window and hourly going out and calling him. By evening I was exhausted.


Okay... I am finally thinking about what to do with all the obi that I brought home last week... I have an idea but actually this might be crazy.

I have checked shipping prices and find that it costs me about $10 a kimono or obi to send overseas by surface mail. Japan does not use a checking system so it would be difficult for me to receive money from people. I do not feel a need to make money off of my friend's mother-in-law's obis but I don't really need them myself. Enough people offered to buy some that I am thinking of asking people to donate $50 to Red Cross Relief for Japan. If anyone has an interest in an obi, then I would specify it for that person and after a donation was made I would assume shipping fees to that person. (Can I say, make a donation after you've read this post? I know people have already made donations but I don't think I can just send out kimonos to everybody.) I have about 20 of these things but this would be MY donation (in a way) to Red Cross and I know my friend's family would feel happy knowing the obis went to a cause for Japan.

What do you think? Does this sound feasible? $50 seems a lot for a couple of these things... the pure black ones or the brown men's one (it even has a couple moth holes in it...) so if anyone wants those I'd leave the donation amount open. As for the non-interesting pink roll of kimono fabric at the bottom, that is my least favorite but I'll have you know that there is still a price tag on it that says it is about $250! Wow! I'm afraid I wouldn't buy it for that!

Anyway, I have put these pictures on my sidebar and if anyone is interested, please let me know. First come, first serve. If I don't get takers then these will go to someone I know who uses Japanese fabrics for bags.


From here on, these are kimonos.

And this is a half kimono coat.

I sure didn't plan to get into the kimono trade business.