Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 handwork

It is already December 31st here in Japan.  I had a quiet weekend because Tetsu had to go in to the convalescent home in the middle of the night once and ended up staying over night last night.  Families are busy or traveling.  They don't have the capabilities to bring their elderly home and so with less staff on the holidays there is actually more care to be given.  Though Tetsu doesn't get involved in hands on care these days, he can at least take night duty in the office.  During the New Year holidays he will be at the convalescent home quite a bit too.  With no children in the home, we don't really have to stick to a strict holiday schedule and can play around as we like.

So... time to evaluate the quilting year.  Not my most prolific I'm afraid.  A couple of days ago I went through this year's pictures to see what I had made.  Aaugh!  Not that much!!!

Some small things for presents and bazaars...

A couple wall hangings; a small Girls Day quilt, the snowman wall hanging, and the photo quilt for Marcy this summer.

I did some repair work on an old Bible quilt and put that back together earlier in the year.

Two "helps" were the donation quilt for a hospital and the bazaar quilt.  I can't claim those as my own though...  I did the quilting on the flower basket quilt for the hospital and joined my friends in making the forest and village bazaar quilt.

So that leaves... A zigzag baby quilt, the Crazy Goose Chase donated to the Ronald McDonald House, the Alabama Beauty quilt, the Promises and Borders quilt and the Star Within a Star quilt.  Is that a good amount of handwork for 2012?

And I didn't count the knitting I did... a vest for Tetsu, a vest for Obaachan and a woman's vest.  Oh.. You hadn't heard about that one?  That's because I started it a couple of days ago and finished last night.  It was another one of those "Can I make this?" projects that used up yarn in the closet.  Sort of an interesting pattern.

For 2013 my first job is to finish machine quilting the Fiery Star quilt I've been working on since September...  And somewhere in the sewing room I have a Work In Progress Leaders/Enders quilt.

Happy sewing to all of you in the new year!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Getting things done

Cleaning.  Knitting  (WHAT!!!  Knitting AGAIN?!).  Writing New Year's cards.

Between chores Tetsu and I went out for lunch and shopping.  We definitely eat too much on holidays but it is a great excuse not to cook.

The cats are not helping with the chores.  Mostly sleeping.

For Christmas Tetsu bought the cats a scratch board hoping that they would take the hint and stop scratching the sofa.  (They haven't taken the hint.)  He sprinkled powdered catnip on the board and the kitties take turns claiming it for their own.

"My favorite spot."

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Promises BOM

We're counting down the hours till the New Year and today Tetsu and I have some last minute shopping and cleaning to do. I'm slowly getting things crossed off my To-do list.

And the biggest finish is the Promises and Borders quilt!!! 

The layout and the colors are not so striking from a distance but I think my Promises quilt looks very nice up close.  The embroidery patterns are beautiful!  I used all of Jenny's embroidery designs but chose some of my own favorite promise verses.

I got a little fancy on the "A promise is a promise" block and double embroidered the lettering hoping to make it look a bit more like calligraphy.

The quilting is pure stitch-in-the ditch.  I'm never quite sure how to quilt an embroidered or applique quilt in the white spaces and I didn't want to take away from the quilt's "message".  The lattice and border fabric was busy enough that I chose not do any patterned quilting...  so this is very plain.   Hopefully the embroidery makes up for that

I am happy to have this quilt in my entrance right in time for the New Year holidays.  A great way to start the New Year with God' promises before us daily!

Thank you Jenny for the wonderful Block of the Month

Friday, December 28, 2012

Keeping in touch

Tetsu's been complaining recently that we haven't heard from Takumi in quite awhile.  I've hinted in e-mails but no response... 

"Hmph.  These children who don't keep in touch!"

Come to think of it, I haven't called my own mother in quite a few months either.  I rationalize.  She forgets that I've called within minutes.  I can't get any information out of her anyway.  But really...  If I want my son to touch base sometimes then I really should do the same for my own mother.

I waited until late afternoon to call.

"Let's see...  If it's 4:00 here... then it is 11:00 there...  Is that AM or PM?  AM I think."

First I called my brother's house.  No answer.  I left a message on the answering machine.  Then I called my mother and she picked up right away.

"Hello!  Hello!  Isn't this a nice surprise!  Are you back in Japan?"

(What's that "back" mean?  Does she think I just flew home from the States?)

We chatted for about 20 minutes and Grandma (my mother) sounded just great.  Very chipper, very happy.

"I'm pretty healthy you know.  Actually REALLY healthy!  And I've still got my head.  I'd hate to be without my head!"

I asked whether anyone had heard from Takumi recently.  Had he visited at Christmas?

"Hmm.  I don't think so.  I don't remember seeing him."

Ah well.  Probably not.  The conversation went back around the second time.

"I'm pretty healthy you know.  Actually REALLY healthy!  And I've still got my head."

My mother celebrates her 91st birthday tomorrow.  I wished her a happy birthday and asked her to say hi to the family.

"No one was home when I called their house."

"Well, I should think they are home.  It is pitch black outside."

It is?  Oops.  I've called at 11:00 PM not 11:00 AM.  It's been so long since I called that I don't even remember the time difference anymore!  Maybe I'm the one who doesn't have her head!

This morning we finally got an e-mail from Takumi.  He said he had visited the family at Christmas and seen Grandma looking happy and healthy.  Hmmm.  Grandma didn't remember that...

We've all got to hang onto our heads!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Winter vacation

I am officially on winter vacation!  Yeah!  There was so much I needed to do and just didn't have time to do it and now I've got the time!

  • I need to clean house.  The Japanese custom is to do "spring" cleaning at the end of the year.  I should make some effort to be Japanese but it is so dang cold that I'm thinking of staying in the warm living room and knitting.  (Not that I have anything special that needs to be knitted... Winter is just very conducive to knitting.)
  • I need to go upstairs and machine quilt.  That is a must for today!!!  
  • I need to write New Year's cards.  They were supposed to be sent by the 25 if we wanted them to be delivered by January 1st but Tetsu believes that December 31 is still permitted for New Year's cards.
  • I need to (WANT TO) read blogs.  I haven't just sat at this computer and visited for weeks.
  • I need to get back to the Bible study that I have with my friend Kaoru-san.  We have been having digital Bible studies but she has been traveling and I have been Christmas busy.  We need to get back to that.
  • I want to sit back and read the photography book I bought for myself for Christmas.  
  • I need to put on the binding on my Promises and Borders quilt.  (That's been hand quilted.  Completely stitch in the ditch...  Not too exciting but I didn't think border designs and motifs would show up.)
Okay, time to get off my duff and DO something!!!  Think I can cross some stuff of my To-Do list today?  Or at least make some progress.

"Continue to do those things; 
give your life to doing them so your progress may be seen by everyone."
1 Timothy 4:15 

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Impromptu lunch

Yesterday my friends and I had an impromptu Christmas lunch.  In the morning one friend called and offered to make some salmon sushi for lunch.  And the other friend said she would make sweet beans.  What can I make?  I can probably put together some pork and vegetable miso soup, so it was arranged that we would meet at my house for lunch.

Mrs. Ide arrived with a furoshiki wrapped box.

Do you know furoshiki?  This is the traditional way to carry goods, before the custom of plastic and paper bags in Japan.  The ultimate ecology-minded product!  A furoshiki can be any scarf sized piece of cloth though Mrs. Ide's was made of a stretchable crepe like fabric. (And she said if she'd known I was going to take a picture of her furoshiki then she would have used her good one.  This is her everyday carrying around furoshiki.

Inside the furoshiki was.... a two tiered lacquer box.  Japanese will use lacquer boxes to carry and display a fancy lunch or New Year's dishes.  Mrs. Ide has a real lacquer box.  I have a plastic fake-lacquer box and I don't even use that very much as I don't make lunch boxes much anymore...

And inside the box?  Mrs. Ide brought much more than just salmon sushi.  Let's see...  Salmon sushi, with cucumbers, ginger and salmon eggs.  Deep-fried shrimp balls.  Sweet egg omelets.  Burdock root pickles.  Traditional simmered vegetables... lotus root, carrots, chicken, mushrooms, green beans, konyaku. 

Mrs. Okusa brought her specialty... sweet beans.  Look at the size of those beans!  And I made the soup.  I should have made it more festive with a bit of greenery in there.  Ginger and radish pickles on the side.  A real feast!!

 Another surprise yesterday was a Christmas bouquet of flowers from Tetsu.  


"My goodness!  You are getting to be so romantic!  I never used to get flowers when we were younger!"

"I think I've changed.  After last year's earthquake I decided to use my time and gifts differently.  Do you think flowers are a waste of money?"

I'm sure not complaining!!!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas with Y-kun

Merry Christmas!

Tetsu and I had a "different" Christmas Eve day.  It was a holiday in Japan (not because it was Christmas Eve) and Tetsu had the day off and there was no school.  In the evening our church had a Christmas Eve service and Y-kun (remember Y-kun?  I write about him so much he is practically part of our family.) wanted to come to the candle service.  But what with his grandfather in the hospital he wasn't sure if he could come.

"If your grandmother will bring you over to my house when she has time then you can go with me.  I'll take you home afterwards."

Y-kun was very excited about that.  What time can he come over?  Can he come over in the morning?

In the morning?  Well...  I have things to do on the 24th.  Tetsu was going to be home.

"If you come over that early, then expect to do chores around the house."

"I'll do chores!  I can help!"

So it was arranged that Y-kun would come over at sometime on 24th.  Maybe before lunchtime?

Yesterday morning at 7:30 am I get a phone call.

"What time can I come over?  Can I come over now?"

"Hello.  Good morning.  Who ARE you?  (I really knew who it was...)  I'm fine thank you."

"This is Y.  What time can I come over?  Can I come over now?"  (Y-kun can be very focused.)

Tetsu looked at me in alarm and suggested that 9:00 was a better time.  9:00 am on the dot, Y-kun arrived bearing gifts of rice and radishes.

Y-kun was true to his word and did chores.  LOTS of chores.  He and Tetsu raked and cleaned up the yard and then even started in cleaning the street gutter (our neighborhood job this month).  No complaints from Y-kun and he ran errands back and forth from where he and Tetsu were working.

"Teacher!  Tetsu-san wants something to drink!  He wants cola!  With ice!  We are working hard.  I want cola with ice too!"

Tetsu had to explain to a few neighbors that we had a new son visiting us that day... Maybe grandson is more age appropriate.  

And the biggest breakthrough was that Choco accepted Y-kun too!

Choco and Y-kun have had a between bars relationship.  Choco barks at Y-kun through her cage bars.  But Y-kun fearlessly (with Tetsu in near proximity) encroached on Choco's kennel territory and...

"Now no biting..."

"Teacher look!  Choco and I are friends!"

Well, will you look at that!  Y-kun's patience paid off.  Choco just needed a boy to play with her.  Y-kun made her one happy dog and later Y-kun took Choco for a walk (with me tailing behind.)

Let's see.  We went out to lunch at an all-you-can-eat place and Y-kun ate so much Tetsu was afraid he'd be sick on the way home. 

Tetsu napped on the sofa while I quilted and Y-kun did a bit of pot-holder making (I'd bought a kit in the States this summer.)

Before the church candle service in the evening Tetsu and Y-kun and I followed the Japanese custom of having a Christmas cake. 

"Great kid, that Y-kun"   (Tetsu's comment.)  "He sure eats a lot."

Monday, December 24, 2012

Obachan's birthday

Yesterday was my mother-in-law's birthday.. the same as the Japanese emperor's birthday!  My mother-in-law is 88 (I think the emperor is 79) .

My mother-in-law and I have a comfortable relationship.  However...  I don't know about her, but if I said all the things I wanted to, our relationship could go to pot quickly.  There are times when I just have to take a couple weeks vacation from her complaining and negativeness.  But... at 88, I don't expect her to change and when I show up again with nary a word about her last woes then things go smoothly for a few months. After 35 years of being my mother-in-law I've learned that she and I just have different ways of showing love.

Obachan's way of showing love is to worry.

"I've been so worried about you.  I was sure you were hospitalized or dying and were keeping it from me."

And I know that Obachan must feel she is LOVED when we worry about her... so she gives us a lot of opportunities.

"I was so sick last night I was thinking of calling an ambulance.  I'm sure I must be very ill."

Oh well, if I record all Obachan's favorite complaints, then this will be a very depressing post.

On the other hand...

My way of showing love is to make something for somebody.  Handmade shows I've been thinking of the person, I'm giving the gift of time.  However I don't think Obachan feels loved that way...  Something handmade isn't necessarily something she needs or wants or can even use.  Something from the store is probably of better quality and shows the sacrifice of expense.

As I say... I think Obachan and I don't communicate our love for each other very well... but in 35 years we accept each others' attempts.

For Obachan's birthday I've been crocheting a vest for her.  I've been working on it for a couple of weeks.  I've readjusted the size and put thought into making easy for her to put on and take off.  The picture is of the vest on one of my turtlenecks.

But a handmade vest alone wasn't going to thrill her... so I bought her a lot of underpants and undershirts.  It seemed something a daughter-in-law could buy her that her son couldn't...  Everyone needs new underwear at the beginning of the new year.

"Happy Birthday Obachan!  I know this vest isn't very warm for this season, but maybe in spring you'll be able to wear this."

"Oh, Tani-chan, you crochet so beautifully.  I wonder if I'll be alive to wear it in the spring."

We made Obachan try the vest on and she complied to having her picture taken.

"Tani-chan is so sneaky with that camera.  She's always taking pictures.  Oh!  Just look at me!  I look like an old woman!  When did I get so old?!  No one wants to see such an old woman!  I can't believe I look so old!"

"Obachan, you are 88 years old.  It's okay to look like an old woman."  (That was from Tetsu.  I offered Obachan my lipstick before I took pictures but she didn't think that would help.)

The Meals on Wheels staff made Obachan a pretty origami card for her.  Amazing what one can do with paper!

Tetsu and I visited for about an hour and Obachan was a bit more cheerful than usual.  And in the evening she called me to thank me again.

"Thank you SO much for the underwear!  I needed new underwear so much and didn't know who I could ask to buy me some.  Tani-chan, you are so good to notice what I need."

I wonder if she'll ever wear that vest.  

Sunday, December 23, 2012

What is this?

A couple of days ago Tetsu informed me that he'd broken my iron.  Now that you mention it...  Last weekend while I was napping on the sofa, I do remember a crash on the stairway and a swear word or two.  It seems that Tetsu was planning to iron his shirt and because the upstairs was so cold, he tried to carry his shirt, his suit, the ironing board and the iron down the stairs so that he could iron in warmth.  The result was a dropped iron that bounced down the stairs and separated into three pieces.

Off I went yesterday to buy a new iron.  Wow!  Lots of irons, lots of different sizes and shapes and heating elements and colors and prices.

I went for middle range price (still a hefty purchase) and blue (I liked the purple too but it was $30 more).

I chose Teflon over the many other options... I don't know why...  Some were supposed to slide better over different fabrics but since I only slide my iron over patchwork pieces I guess I don't need anything fancier...)

I definitely wanted a cordless iron because that's what I've used for years.  I especially appreciate that I can carry the iron to a completely other room to iron that backing seam that I've got laid out on the floor...  I know cordless irons aren't supposed to get that hot, but I've never noticed that.

And I chose the orange peel shape.  Because it is a pretty shape?  Because it makes for an interesting picture on my blog?  (I'm so honest.)  Because I want to be able to iron backwards and forwards?  I'm not sure what the benefit of this shape is...  There were other strange shapes too... arrow shaped ones...electric pronged shaped ones...  The orange peel shape was very eye-pleasing... but how often am I going to admire the bottom of my iron?

I suppose I could also use my new iron for marking arcs on a future quilting project...

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Kesenuma Baptist Church

Okay, after all of yesterday's patchwork joviality I thought I'd show our serious side too.  Well, Mrs. Okutomi's serious side.

Mrs. Okutomi has made it her life work to depict Japanese churches and Biblical scenes in her patchwork designs.  She has spent years perfecting her machine applique stained glass technique and I have shown her vibrant creations many times before on my blog.  She will often visit a church and take photos and then design a quilt from her pictures.  Most of her creations will be sent to the church as a gift, sometimes she has done commission work.  Mrs. Okutomi will be featured in one of Japan's leading patchwork magazines next month.

Mrs. Okutomi felt compelled to make a quilt after she came across a picture in the Japanese Asahi Newspaper showing a rough cross being erected over the ruins of the Kesenuma Baptist Church in Fukushima.  The church itself was completely destroyed last year in the tsunami with only the sanctuary altar left where the church had been standing.  Church members cleared the sanctuary spot of debris, and from broken timbers lashed a crude cross together over the shattered landscape.  A photographer captured the scene as the cross was being erected.

Mrs. Okutomi, using a combination of dyed and patterned fabrics designed her quilt adding a Bible verse from Song of Songs to the top. The Kesenuma Baptist Church name is at the bottom of the quilt.

"Many waters cannot quench love,
Nor will rivers overflow it."
Sonsg of Songs 8:7

It is my great joy to have Mrs. Okutomi as a friend and sister in Christ.  Her quilt will be sent this week to Kesenuma.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Patchwork game results!

Patchwork day exhibition!

Our patchwork group had its last patchwork meeting of the year and we all made it!  Lots of chatting and eating and some sewing.

"Okay ladies!  Time to show your patchwork game project results!  Go get your stuff out of your bags!"

A couple ladies groaned.

"I'm going home!  Count me out."  (this was from Mrs. Furui.  And we were at HER house."

Hmm.  It seems that some people didn't find time to work on their projects.

This summer I had bought a couple of yards of cute snowman fabric (it glitters!)  I specifically chose the snowmen over Santa Claus because I foresaw that some ladies might not finish by Christmas... With snowmen they have at least until the end of February...  The fabric was cut into fat quarter size and the instructions were to make SOMETHING with it.  ANYTHING.   The deadline to aim for was this December meeting...

"You are part of the group.  Show us what you've DONE."

Our LCM has admired the fabric for a couple of months...  She didn't want to show her face (check earlier blog posts for what she looks like.)

"Oh well, you have provided a good opportunity for me to take a picture of the original fabric size.

Mrs. Furui was another one trying to hide behind her fabric.

"That's all I got done...  It's going to be a baby quilt for my grandchild."

Seeing as none of her sons are thinking of getting married yet, Mrs. Furui may have chosen a good project.  She probably has a couple of years to work on this...

Mrs. Yamaguchi made a towel and was doing the final quilting on a luncheon mat.  ALMOST finished.  (Isn't Mrs. Yamaguchi pretty?)

 Mrs. Okutomi was very gung-ho about this game... because.... she'd made the snowman tapestry LAST year!  So for our game she made the 3-dimensional Christmas tree!  She'd kept the fabrics and buttons and things from her last year's project and tied it all together THIS year.  Great idea!!

(Hmmph.  Mrs. Ochiai asked me to remove her close-up from my blog... So for those who saw her... now she's not here anymore!)

Mrs. Ochiai made a scenery quilt.  Actually she started working on hexagons and got way laid and as a quickie quilt she put this pretty scene together.  Better than that, LAST year Mrs. Ochiai had made the same scene in summer colors and so she just made the tapestry again in winter colors with the snowman border.  Another wonderful idea!

Mrs. Harada did the most work of any of us.  She made a crib size quilt for her soon-to-be-born grandchild.  (She looks too young to be a grandmother.  She IS too young to be a grandmother!)  Mrs. Harada's quilt is all hand pieced and hand quilted.  Can you make out all the circles that she quilted on the grid?  The quilting really makes the quilt!

And me?  I made a Christmas tree tapestry.  Let's see... needle turned applique, machine quilted. 

Well, that was sure fun!  (My thoughts.  I'm not sure our LCM and Mrs. Furui would agree.)