Sunday, March 31, 2013

Thyme for Stu spring quilt

A quick post before I go off to church.

I spent most of Friday and part of Saturday putting together another McKenna Ryan kit that Liz had sent me.  This is called Thyme for Stu from the In Full Bloom set of quilts.  I had so much fun making the Christmas kit that I was overjoyed to receive the spring kit!  After making the Christmas quilt, my only regret was that I wouldn't be able to display it!  And then Liz sent this darling kit just right for spring!!!  I had to work on it right away!

So with two days ahead me I traced and fused and cut out and fused again and sewed on borders (my own fabric) and I now have a spring flimsy!  And another great plus is that the kits include so much fabric that I passing the scraps on to Mrs. Furui and she will probably be able to make the same quilt with very little stash addition of her own.

The lavender was such a blast to make!  Wiggle wiggle wiggle those scissors and who cares what the pattern says!  Same with all those herbs.  Once you get the hang of it, anything goes!

If nothing else, anyone who is hesitating making one of McKenna Ryan's quilts should be encouraged by the way they go together so quickly...  And this was even without pre-cut pieces!  I am happy to say that with a good pair of embroidery scissors the pieces were even fun to cut out!

Not much left of spring vacation...  I wonder if I'll find time to quilt this...

Friday, March 29, 2013

Thursday's Cakewalk blocks

I had a fun, chatty day with my patchwork friends yesterday. 

A blog friend Liz, had sent us a couple spring McKenna kits and so a couple of us were trying to figure out how to use them.  We feel very successful with the McKenna Christmas kits and I jumped at the offer of the flower kits.  With the pattern we can actually make the same quilt using our own fabrics (as long as we trace the pattern onto fusible paper an extra time) and the McKenna kits are so generous with their fabrics, it looks like we can make a whole other quilt with very little stash additions.  Two of us spent an hour tracing the McKenna kit pattern onto the paper that Liz even sent to us.  I will report on this new project as we go along...  (Unfortunately my friends and I can't find another get together day to work on this so we will be working separately and compare results.)  I am aching to get started on another McKenna quilt so I'll have a go at it today.  (Didn't I have other Works-in-Progress lined up?  If so the chemicals in my brain have erased all other thoughts but starting a new quilt!)

Of course the main reason we were together at all was to make some decisions about the Cakewalk blocks for this year's kindergarten raffle.  A few of us cut the blocks to a standard size and in another room a few of us put the blocks down in a colorful layout.  What a pretty assortment of fabrics!  These are buttonhole appliqued (except for the pieced centers) and the next step is to make a border using the same pattern.  We didn't find time to sew these blocks together (too much chatting) and we have stacked them in hopes that next month we can sew the center and the border together at the same time.

Thanks to Liz, I am now going upstairs to work on another McKenna quilt!  Bye!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Pickles... again

Someone asked me about Japanese pickles.  Besides the fact that I like to eat them I don't think I'm very knowlegable.  But I'll give it a try.

Japanese love pickles.  They seem to love any foods that can be preserved so we use a lot of dried fish and vegetables and a lot of pickled foods too.  At any hole in the wall place serving lunch or dinner there will always be a tiny plate of pickles next to the rice bowl... come to think of it, at the fancy restaurants too, there will often be a tiny plate of pickles next to the expensive sashimi plate too!

I have a feeling that being able to make pickles is a requirement for being a farm wife.  Behind the sheds and out the back door of the kitchen, a farmer's wife will have two or three plastic "trash cans" filled with pickles.  She will have started whatever pickles as the vegetables are harvested and each "can" will have a different load of pickles.  Of course cucumber, but also Chinese cabbage, or long icicle radish or plums.   The outdoor pickles can be eaten for months and months and given away to people like me who don't make pickles, but there are also overnight pickles.  I see that I have written about the overnight pickles before, so you can check this blog post...  but anyway, pickles are an important part of a meal!

This is Takuan, a distinctly flavorful icicle radish pickle.  Y-kun brought this over from his grandmother.

I have had fair success with making overnight pickles but I stay far away from trying to make long term pickles.  My only attempt was when I was a newly wed bride and I thought I'd be very Japanese if I made Tetsu some pickled plums.  They are called Umeboshi in Japan...

Umeboshi are great for rice balls and for flavor in a cold lunch box.  They are extremely salty and sour.  If you think of green olives, what happens?  You start salivating.  With Umeboshi too.  (In fact I've used Umeboshi in casseroles calling for green olives and the dish was delicious.)

Back when I innocently decided to make Umeboshi I bought a box of plums, sprayed them with a type of sake and set them out to dry on a bamboo tray, (being careful to bring the tray in whenever it rained) and then I was ready to salt the plums and add some red burdock leaves that have a wonderful aroma and also turn the plums bright pink.  The Umeboshi are supposed to be left in a cool, dry place so I chose our apartment closet.  Every so often I would check the Umeboshi turning a lovely pink color in the ever increasing bath of brine...  But one day when getting something out of the closet I upturned everything and the whole bucket fell all over our bedding and other stored items...  I had a pink, sticky mess and I was so frustrated I tossed out the whole bucket!  Our closet was badly stained pink which I'm sure was a mystery to the next apartment residents... I've never tried to make Umeboshi again.

I don't really have to make pickles anyway and probably most young Japanese wives (non-farm wives) have no idea how to make pickles.  We have access to numerous of types of pickles in the supermarket and the fancier department stores and local specialty shops sell pickles by weight.  Tetsu and I were somewhere and all the tourists were milling around sampling all the different types of pickles available.  Celery, shallots, bamboo shoots, ferns etc.

At the same place, there was another shopkeeper selling pickles... of sorts.  These all have fish in them... Let's see... a type of pickled herring (but not pickled in sour cream), pickled salmon, pickled shellfish... 

Pickles... a nice accent to a Japanese meal.  A place to rest your chopsticks before another mouthful.  A refreshing sensation separating one flavor from the next.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Nine Pine Burr Blocks

Evenings in front of the TV hand sewing.  I don't even have to look at the TV to keep track of the programs. 

I've been sewing little triangles for my Pine Burr blocks.  And then I pick out some fabric for background or for the larger triangles and after cutting those out I have MORE little pieces of fabric that are just right for another little triangle or two or three or four for the next Pine Burr block.  Oh my!  My triangle pile is growing!  This is never going to stop!!

To date I have made 9 Pine Burr blocks.  I could just stop here and turn this into a wall hanging.  Or I could continue on and see how many blocks I get made before I'm tired of this project.

With all the little triangles in my pile I guess I'd better go and make a few more blocks...

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

March flowers

The cherry blossoms will be blooming here next week (or this weekend!) and I have yet to post pictures of plum blossoms.  They bloomed a couple of weeks ago!  Too many things going on.

By the way... Tetsu came home last night in a good mood because I posted about him yesterday...Of course he can't read the post but he did get the "My hero" part.

"Hey!  You posted about me today.  You've probably run out of other things to say and used me as a last resort."

But he said it with a smile.  And Leiya Skyped and said she cried when she read about her Daddy.  So I've made my family happy.

Anyway... Plum blossoms.  They are the first flowers to start blooming and let us know that winter is nearly over.  Of course there are numerous types of plum blossoms; white, pale pink, shocking pink... even a yellow I think.

Some of these pictures were taken on Tetsu and my jaunt around the countryside last weekend.  Some were taken in my student's yard.

Sunday, Choco and I walked about 5 minutes to the very old plum orchard near our house.  The trees are ancient and only seem to be able to bear a scattering of flowers on each branch.  I brought dog snacks for Choco and rice balls for myself and then sat under the trees enjoying the aroma and reading my Kindle.  That is an ancient quilt... maybe over 20 years old, that is stained and faded from being left in the car as our official picnic blanket.  Another one of Mrs. Furui's and my first attempts at doing machine piecing while our kids were in kindergarten.

Hmmm.  Not cherry blossoms, but we were in some vegetable store where they were selling racks of flowers and I though these were pretty.

And I guess here's my Bokeh in Nature assignment for the photo website I visit.

Camera : Olympus Pen Lite Epl-2
Aperture : f/1.8
Exposure : 0.0005s (1/2000)
ISO speed : 200
Focal Length : 200 mm
Program: Program

This is Nanohana... that I found just off the side of the road when walking with Choco.  Hey, I just ate some Nanohana this week!  The taste of spring!

Monday, March 25, 2013

My hero

I thought I'd post about Tetsu though come to think of it I don't have a great recent picture of him. 

I suppose basically Tetsu is a "carer".  He just likes taking care of people and things.  If there's a problem he figures he can solve it (except for computer problems.  He stays away from computers.)  I don't know how many times during the winter he will find a car stranded and stop and offer to help.  He keeps some sort of snow ramp in the back of the car so he can help the non-snow tire drivers out of a snow drift.  In his younger days he's stopped to help drivers LIFT cars from ditches.  (He figured he was big for Japanese standards and had all the judo background.)  He's finally realized that he's not so young anymore so that practice has stopped.

But he hasn't given up completely!  Recently he has been going over to the community center to put some time in on the treadmills and gain some stamina.  And you can see that I've been trapped into joining him.  He says at his age he'd hate to have a heart attack while on the treadmill so he "needs" me there to watch over him.  I read my Kindle while on the exercise bike.

You all know Tetsu as my wonky carpenter.  He has been up to it again this weekend. One or two of the cats have gotten into the habit of raiding the garbage basket and strewing fresh garbage all over the kitchen floor every morning.  There is no door to the kitchen but we have put up a wooden screen that had kept the felines from entering the kitchen.  We THOUGHT.  They figured out how to get past the screen.  So every morning, no matter how we'd arrange the screen, no matter how we'd tie up the garbage and weight it down... there it would be all over the floor with cats innocently looking up at us mewing for their morning milk.  Why do we keep these animals!!!?

So Tetsu and I bought a covered wastebasket this weekend and then he decided that the wastebasket needed a stand so that I could put things above it (as I'd done with the old uncovered wastebasket).  Here Tetsu is "measuring" his wood placement.... with my... lipgloss, which was lying on the table.  That is true WONKINESS!  (It's not that we don't have a dozen quilter's measuring tools in both inches and metric.)

Tetsu's finished wastebasket shelf.

The other day as we drove home through the long tunnel separating our town from the next one over, there were three or four pieces of lumber that had probably fallen off some truck and they were spanning the lanes making cars swerve and veer.  Again, when debris is endangering drivers Tetsu will often pull over and draw whatever to the side of the road.  In this case he left me with my Kindle and then walked back through the tunnel to to pull what he could aside.  A slightly dangerous practice and I kept my eyes on the tunnel entrance for about 20 minutes hoping he knew what he was doing.  There's my hero doing his good deed for the day.

And another regular "Tetsu" activity is our Saturday morning forest cleanup.  It is amazing how much stuff gets thrown to the side of the road during the week and so we devote our morning walk with Choco on Saturdays to picking up litter.  Well, I hold onto Choco's leash...  Tetsu picks up litter.

This morning Tetsu was eager to see how well the new wastebasket and shelf had fooled the cats.  We pulled aside the screen to find THIS!

Dumb cats!  They just have to find something to destroy.  There was a bag of plastic bottle caps hanging by the shelf.  What interest could a cat have in a bag of bottle caps?  I think they do it just to keep us on our toes.  Tetsu will have to figure something else out.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

By the Light of the Moon, finished!

I have another finish....   One that I can't even put up on my wall yet because it is for ....


I finished the McKenna Ryan By the Light of the Moon kit.  Yeah!  A big relief because I was really wondering if I would mess it all up in the end.

The center scene I did with Mrs. Furui and Mrs. Ochiai.  I took the kit home and put on the borders and ribbon by myself.

And then to the quilting...  Take the plunge Tanya.

Well, the stitching wasn't very even but blurps weren't that visible with that monofiliment thread.  I had to keep the top thread very loose though to discourage the bobbin thread from popping up on the top.  A lot of wiggling and backtracking.

What a load off my mind when the quilting was done!

Next to the embellishments.

McKenna offered an embellishment kit for about $35 dollars (and I'd have to pay for shipping remember).  For beads and baubles?  Surely I can find beads to use in Japan.

Actually I could find beads in my own drawers.

I found some cheapy acrylic sparkle "beads" that I'd bought years ago for some project, I don't remember what.  And I did splurge and buy the tiny Swarovski chips when I found them on sale at a craft shop.  At full price, NO WAY!  The McKenna kit included Swarovski beads so I realized why the kit was so expensive.  Honestly speaking, there really is a difference in the sparkle...but a couple go a long way and the eye is fooled into thinking the cheap beads are twinkling more than they really are.  I attached the sparkle beads with hot bond.

Also in my drawers I found a few star charms that I had planned to use for the Tessellating Cats quilt a couple years ago. (I used bells)  The birds are carrying star charms to the tree tops.

The different trees in the scene I decorated with left over seed beads (sew on from the back) or more Swarovski and acrylic beads.

And this little bird is carrying...  An old pearl earring that I lost the pair to years ago...  adorned with a lone circle bead from a broken necklace.  You can see that I am adaptable.

I absolutely love the way the tapestry sparkles and glitters as the light catches it.  The gold star charms and even the gold fabric star that the bear is holding (Mrs. Furui found a SCRAP of gold in a sample stack) twinkle when you walk past.  

This quilt will be put aside until Mrs. Furui and Mrs. Ochiai finish their quilts and then they will be lent to the children's hospital for this year's wall decoration at Christmas.  NEXT year we'll be able to call the tapestries our own.  (Lending out the tapestries was the only way the three of us could justify spending so much money for our patchwork hobby...  We do make such strange rules for ourselves, don't we.)

I had such fun making this quilt and though it is identical to the quilts that other McKenna fans have made, I was thrilled using the beautiful fabrics and learning new techniques.

I'd say this was a success!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Blog comments

As some of you may have noticed, I'm having trouble with my comment page.  Even though I have a spam filter, sometimes half of the comments on a post are by anonymous commentators who seem to be selling something or want people to visit their website.  It is disappointing to see 10 blog comments in the box and then go and find five of them spam.  I daily go to my settings page and delete comments awaiting moderation on back posts because all of those are spam too.  There are usually about 10 a day on back posts.  And then in the spam filter there are at least 30 or 40 spam comments that got caught.   (The first time I realized that I could clean out the spam filter there were over 2000!  It took quite awhile to clean out everything even in groups of 100.)

So I've put a moderation filter on the present posts now.  I guess what that means is that I will be able to delete the comments before they get onto the blog... but that doesn't really solve the problem of not letting them in to begin with.  I suppose I could change the filter to just registered commentators or not allowing anonymous comments at all but there are quite a few of you who remain anonymous but have wonderful advice or interesting experiences that you tell me about.  So I don't really want to do that...  And I've never liked that word verification option.

Anyway, you may notice a difference in the comment box (but I'm not sure what is supposed to change).  If anyone has any other advice I'd sure like to hear it.

And now I have a question.  I got a pop-up message saying that Google Reader is going to be cancelled from July (I think... It only popped up once.)  I have always used Google Reader to visit blog friends and the blogs I visit are registered there.  I don't even know if there are other ways to keep a list of blogs and to show when the blogger has posted (and how many I've fallen behind in reading.)  Could someone direct me to a new website that does this?

All these small annoyances put me in a bad mood.   Grrr...  Cats!  You all had better be careful of me today!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Pin cushion

Always ready to have a new experience!

I am not going to tell you about my aches and pains.  It seems like we all have them.  I am horrified when I realize I've spent a whole conversation with my friends commiserating about what hurts where and what the different treatments are...  I sound like my mother-in-law!

Anyway, yesterday I went to a bone-setter.  Do we only have them in Japan?  Not a medical doctor, not really a chiropractor.  A masseuse of sorts with origins in sport injuries (judo in particular).  Tetsu tells me they specialize in treatment for dislocated shoulders, strained ligaments and setting broken bones.  They are covered by regular insurance so it is not a quacky operation, but still...

The large room had about 10 beds in it divided by curtains, and there were 4 or 5 therapists at work on their patients.  The nice thing about the therapists is that they take the time to talk to you and they don't just type information into their computers (my complaint about medical doctors... In the hospitals the patients are in and out of the examining room in 3 minutes and the doctor never takes his eyes off the computer screen and then prescribes pain killers!)

In other corners of the bone setter clinic were chairs with people hooked up to static machines which stimulate and loosen muscles...  Hmmm.  Another corner was covered in a cloud of smoke and wafting a sweet aroma.  The patients there were having incense treatment with little discs of incense taped to different aching parts of bodies....  Again... Hmmm...

Anyway I had my massage and then was asked if I was adverse to acupuncture treatment.  No...  I have friends who absolutely swear by acupuncture treatment.  I even know an American couple who make it a practice to visit "their" acupuncturist whenever they visit Japan.  But I've never tried myself...

The nice therapist explained that the set of 12 "needles" are delivered sterilized and disposed after use.  No reusable needles.  The points are tapped into the skin and then deftly twisted until they are at an effective depth, about an inch... gulp.

Well, there I lay as 11 needles were anti-septically applied (the first needle the therapist had used to explain the theory to me.  He bent it in two and disposed of it).  Nope.  I didn't feel a thing.  I stayed a human pin cushion for about 10 minutes and then was sent for some light stretch therapy.  No blood, no pain but no great change either.

For all that, consultation, a 15 minute massage, 10 minutes acupuncture treatment and standing on a stretch block for 5 minutes, the fee was about 15 dollars.  I can handle that.  I'm supposed to go back again today and maybe once or twice a week for a month.

Well, it is more proactive than sitting around complaining with my friends...

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Kayoko Kasashima quilt show

Lots of quilt pictures today. On the spur of the moment Tetsu and I visited another quilt show yesterday and both of us used my camera to capture different quilts.

The quilts are by the same woman who made the quilts at another quilt show that Tetsu and I went to a couple of months ago, Kayoko Kasashima.  Ms. Kasashima passed away 10 years ago and her daughter owns the quilts and shows them occasionally.  We visited the previous small quilt show after Tetsu read about her in the newspaper.  Yesterday again, he noticed the name and suggested we drive a couple of hours to see the exhibit.

The quilts are all very large and beautiful.  These are all about bed cover size.

As Tetsu and I walked in the door of the exhibit room the daughter recognized us from the last quilt show and came over immediately to thank us for coming.  (Tetsu had talked to her quite awhile the time before... and I guess as a foreigner I stick out a bit.) 

There were many people fingering and photographing all the quilts and many people pointed out the sign on the wall.  It says:

"Please touch and finger the quilts." 

Another sign asked people to photograph the quilts freely.

I had a chance to talk with the daughter quite a long time and asked her about her mother's start in the quilting world.  She said that her mother had originally been a doll maker and made silk flowers.  She dabbled in stained glass and thread baubles and other hand crafts but it wasn't until she was nearly 50 that she began doing patchwork and quilting.  She never took a class and she did all her work by hand.  Her designs were all original and the fabric she used she found in flea markets and second hand shops. 

The Japanese old fabrics were outstanding (I'd be afraid to cut them up) and there were old cotton block prints as well as painted and dyed silk fabrics.  I thought these were two interesting quilts of kimonos...

The same quilt in block fabric and the other in bright silks.

This was an interesting quilt because of the many silk camellias appliqued on a pieced background that was then covered by a rough weave gauze.

The feeling of the quilts were very different too.  Some bright and gaudy, others muted and Japanese.  (And others of Japanese scenery that I have shown before.)

A few "traditional" designs  but set off with Japanese fabrics...

Aren't Japanese silks beautiful?  But they are very slippery and hard to cut and sew.. Think of the time put into the piecing!

The daughter said that her mother taught quilting (she must have learned quickly herself) and she had many students that kept her motivated to make bags and wall hangings and quilt after quilt.  Many of her students have similar quilts that they made after seeing their teacher's example, but the quilts at this quilt exhibition were all made by the teacher (the mother) herself. 

Ms. Kasashima passed away at age 65 which means that she only quilted for about 15 years, and let me tell you, the quantity and the quality is amazing!  Just looking around the room made me realize that she probably made each full size quilt in a few months time...

The piecing is tiny and the hand quilting very dense.  And the use of different fabrics was very eye-opening!

Looking at all the beautiful quilts made me think about my own quilt output.  Hey, I use a sewing machine and I can only make two or three full sized quilts a year.  And I rarely design my own top, and I chose a special quilt to hand quilt and then spend a couple YEARS quilting it...  Tetsu pointed out the quilter was a full time teacher and she HAD to make quilts for her students to imitate... That's true, but as much as I'd like to spend all day and every day sewing and quilting, there are other activities that need to get done.  I feel guilty if I spend more than a couple of hours a day sewing.  I can imagine this quilter sewing for 10 or 12 hours day after day...

How wonderful that the quilter's daughter appreciates her mother's legacy.