Saturday, March 31, 2007

Tetsu's mom

This morning we took Tetsu's mother out to breakfast (Denny's again!) and then went shopping at a large homeware center. The saga with Tetsu's mother is a long one and would you believe yesterday afternoon she was asking for someone to call an ambulance. I think she has some panic issues and her mood changes hourly. Tetsu spent the day with her yesterday at the hospital where she was run through various tests. According to him, she was a completely different woman yesterday but the doctor who saw her made one comment and she brightened up considerably. "Your CT scan shows your brain is the brain of a 40 year old and so you are more aware of aches and pains than most people your age." This thrilled her to no end and this morning when I called to find out how she was and asked if she wanted to join us on our outing she said yes! This is our mother who hasn't been out of her house except to go to a doctor in nearly a year. She has refused to leave her home no matter how often we invite her. Today I couldn't believe my ears and so we rushed over to take her out. She looks very happy don't you think? We pushed her around in a wheelchair, but I really think she enjoyed herself. She bought a couple flowers and some slippers and in general was quite bright and cheerful. Tetsu wasn't fond of the shopping but he was overjoyed that his mother was in good spirits.


"A purple sky to close the day....and my soul wells up with Hallelujahs.
O praise Him all His mighty works.
There is no language where You can't be heard.

Your song goes out to all the earth.
Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah!"

Hallelujah sung by Kathy Troccoli

Walking back from Yano-san's yesterday even I was met with this beautiful sunset. I wandered around the rice fields for awhile taking a few pictures and it was hard to decide which was the most beautiful.

Well, March is almost over and I think it was a fairly productive month for me. I finished all my goals. (Yes, I did dosomething on Yano-san's kimono quilt yesterday. I'll post a picture when it gets to the flimsy stage). The two Wicked quilts were bonus projects and so at the end I've been rushing madly. So, let's see...

  • One Prayer and Square flimsy
  • One feathered star block
  • Progress on the bazaar quilt
  • Progress on Yano-san's quilt
  • Two Wicked quilts
For April I'll continue with the Prayer and Square flimsy goal, the feathered star block goal, bazaar quilt and add a completed quilt for Yano-san. I think I can also add do some machine quilting on that Star of David flimsy I've had done since January. That's enough for one month! I'll probably find something else that is intriguing but this is where I'm starting!

Friday, March 30, 2007

A profile picture

Hmmm. I played around trying to post a picture for my comments and look what happened. I've got it on the blog now and I'm not quite sure how it happened. As I have said numerous times, I'll always be a novice blogger. Well, I guess it's ok. Not a great picture but one of the few that I have of me alone (with Vel from Christmas...)

Choco's spot!

I finished another feathered star block yesterday. That's ten done and I think I was planning to make 12. I dragged all of them all out yesterday to take a picture and show how the colors are going. Obviously blue. I have no idea what I want to do with lattice between the blocks. I still have a couple months to think about it.

Today is very dark and rainy and I forgot to put Choco's blankets inside her kennel so they are all soaked through. She doesn't much like the rain either so after a potty run this morning I've brought her in the house. Where is she? In her favorite spot! On Tetsu!

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Japanese zori

Yes, I know. Why would anyone take a picture of their feet? Well, these are my daily slippers and I actually love them. In Japan we don't wear shoes in the house of course and instead leave the shoes in the entryway in front of a big step. Most homes have slippers for guests to wear while visiting. but I'm not a big fan of slippers. Last summer, Mrs. Ochiai gave me these nice pair of zori and I've been wearing them ever since. They are quite comfortable and in the winter I've been wearing them with toe socks which works out just fine! They are made of bamboo husks that have been hand woven and the straps are made of a fabric wrapped rope. Mrs. Ochiai also gave me a pair for Leiya so Leiya and I are running around pair-look style on both sides of the world!

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Prayers and Squares

Whew! Just finished March's Prayer and Square Quilt! Yeah! I get to mark one more goal finished!

I joined the Prayer and Square organization last September when I came upon the website while looking for some easy quilts to make. After reading the information a number of times I talked to Tetsu about it and then asked the pastor if he would let me use the church information to apply for membership. The idea of prayers and quilts really appealed to me. For years and years, in one group or another, I have participated in making quilts for people. Sometimes baby gifts or wedding gifts, sometimes house-warming gifts, sometimes in a desire to show someone who is sick that the person is being thought about and often prayed for. Unfortunately with all these quilt gifts it meant that a couple of us did the planning, the sewing, the quilting, and others in the group participated by helping to pay for materials but that was about all they could do. Of course the person who received the quilt would rave about the colors or the pattern or the stitching and praise the quilters to high heaven but the non-sewers in the group got very little recognition.

When I came across Prayers and Squares I thought "this is it!" I could make a quilt for a group very quickly without a lot of fuss or materials and everybody could pray over it and tie knots. Everybody! No matter how old and almost no matter how young, everyone could tie knots and pray.
First I approached Tetsu and explained what I wanted to do. There is the cost of course for the minimum of materials, batting, backing, scraps. Would he let me assume the cost and donate all materials as well as time. "Go ahead." he said. "You're going to make quilts anyway."

Not more than two days later a neighbor showed up at my door and asked if I could use some left-over fabric. To say that I thought I was witnessing a miracle is an understatement! This neighbor had only ever just stepped in my entryway and had happened to see some of the quilts hanging there and she had access to fabric that was going to be thrown out. The next day she brought a garbage bag full of heavy cotton material! The company that the neighbor works for makes use of yards and yards of this heavy fabric (in two colors) and they threw away a good portion of it every month. When I looked at the fabric I thought that it really was too heavy for patchwork and quilting, but not for machine piecing and since no quilting is involved in the Prayer and Square quilts it was absolutely perfect! Another gift from God! Since September my neighbor occasionally brings over another load of fabric and I am really up to my ears in it now! (Do I ask God to stop His blessings?) She also brings rolls of burlap too, but I haven't figured out how to use that anywhere. Any suggestions?

The Prayer and Square Organization's motto is "It's not about the quilt; it's all about the prayers" so I've been making the simplest Around the World pattern and trying to have a stock of flimsys in case of sudden need. I think today's quilt is the eighth quilt I've made. Sometimes I wonder if my scraps are going to hold out much longer, but I guess I'll just let God supply my needs.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

My talented friend

Look at what my friend (and student) Mrs. Ide made! She is so talented! She is always making something interesting, sometimes sewing, sometimes knitting or crocheting, most often doing patchwork. She's the friend that took me to a new fabric shop a couple of weeks ago.

Anyway, today she brought this cute little Hawaiin quilt bag that she had she made for her niece. I think she planned for it to be a lunch bag, but I have a feeling that the girl will probably think it is too nice to just carry a lunch in and will use it for grander purposes. Doesn't Mrs. Ide do beautiful work? Tiny applique (and reverse applique) and even quilting stitches. The colors are so nice and summery too and the nice, green leather handles really make it special.

Mrs. Ide also brought four or five of these cute little bags which would be great to carry a lipstick or something in and she gave me (and another friend) one! Oohh! How special! Inside were some cute little "candy" sachets. These little bags are made from recycled kimono fabric and I chose the bright, colorful one!

Thank you Mrs. Ide!

Monday, March 26, 2007

My husband and hero!

This morning after our walk with Choco, Tetsu and I went to Utsunomiya to have breakfast at Denny's. We do this about once a month and breakfast is a nice way to start the day. I had a "normal" breakfast, Tetsu had a Japanese style and I think it funny that Denny's serves rice and fish for breakfast. Well, we live in Japan so it's not so strange, but that the Denny's restaurant serves it seems funny to my foreign tastes. Here's Tetsu's breakfast. Grilled salmon, rice, tofu miso soup, natto (fermented beans) pickles and seaweed. Yum...

Though I've posted pictures of my kids, of my cats and dog, I've only had one picture of Tetsu (the one with Choco sleeping on him) in all the time I've written my blog. Tetsu doesn't really like to have his picture taken but I got him today! So here is a little history about us.

I met Tetsu not long after I came to Japan as a missionary associate and we dated for two years before we were married. I didn't speak much Japanese when I met him and he spoke no English but we got by with help from friends. Our courtship was even written up in an English textbook. Dare I include it here...? It was written up in conversation form from something someone had read about us.

Love at First Bite
Listen to Keiko and Tanya

K: Tell me, Tanya, how did you end up getting married to a Japanese?
T: Well, after college I came all the way from sunny California to icy Morioka to teach English.
K: Don't tell me--your husband was your student?
T: I wish he had been. His English is appalling!
K: So how did you two meet?
T: With a little help from my friend Gladys, who was teaching Spanish at the same school One day, Gladys and her husband Hajime invited me to go ice-skating. They brought along this good-looking guy called Tetsu.
K: Was it love at first sight?
T: For me it was. For him it was about five minutes later when I offered him a bite of my half-eaten roasted corn. That did it!
K: But Japanese men are so shy. How did you get together?
T: Well, I couldn't skate and he could, so I just took hold of his hand.
K: But how did you two communicate? Could you speak Japanese?
T: Not a word! It was incredibly complicated. Everytime we went out we had to go out with Gladys and Hajime. First, I'd say something in English to Gladys. She'd translate it into Spanish for Hajime. Then he'd translate it into Japanese for Tetsu. Of course, Tetsu would reply in the same manner.
K: Did you two ever manage to be alone then?
T: Well, gradually my Japanese improved, although I always carried my dictionary. But you know, the fastest way to learn a language is to fall in love with someone who doesn't speak your own!

Yep. That's about right. It wasn't so hard for me to decide to marry Tetsu as it was to decide I would live forever in Japan. We've been married for 27 years so I guess it's been a successful marriage!

Sunday, March 25, 2007

My sewing room

Yesterday morning I ran errands in Utsunomiya and then hurried home to take Choco for a walk and then get to some sewing. I had plans for putting together another Prayer and Square Quilt but just before going upstairs to the sewing room I got a call from the pastor saying that one of our church members has been diagnosed with cancer and could I get a Prayer and Square Quilt ready to be tied by April 8th. Well, I have been forsighted and already had two flimsys in my drawer so I pulled the green one out and got it sandwiched, pinned, bound and pre-tied by 5:00. It actually took me more time than I thought it would. Once things are in the flimsy stage I figured I could get it all together in two hours but it actually took me 4 to cut binding, sew it on, hand bind it, put on the ties etc. Oh and make a label too. I took it to the church and the pastor wrote the words on the label and I sewed it on while I chatted with him and his wife. Tomorrow prayers will go up for Mr. Tsuchihashi and the quilt will be tied.

So, since you've seen that flimsy before I guess I'll just show pictures of the room I spent my afternoon in. This is Leiya's room and though I've left the bed and stereo there, the rest of the stuff is my stuff. The desk and table are my sewing and cutting areas. The window looks out on the edge of the forest.

The ironing board is a horror. Can you see it sitting on that cabinet next to the desk? That little tiny space and I'm trying to iron quilt backings! Traditionally that little board sits on the floor with pull out metal legs and that's how Japanese women iron. Recently in Japan, we can get longer, stand up ironing boards but they take up so much space standing and knowing me I would never take it down, that, though I've been tempted to buy one, since I iron nothing but patchwork stuff I'm still making due. (As I write this Tetsu is upstairs ironing his slacks for a big meeting he has today. He has never asked me to iron any of his clothing. Maybe he doesn't think I'll do such a neat job. Anyway, I'm not asking for the job!)

My workboard on the wall. The crazy looking quilt on the bed that was made the same time Furui-san (Feb. 14) made hers (and which looks so genteel). A small electric heater that will at least keep my legs warm while I sew. Gospel CD's that I listen to while I sew. My bulletin board with prayer requests on it. Different quilts on the walls and stacked by the bed Anyway, my nice little sewing room.

Saturday, March 24, 2007


Buzz? What is she talking about?

Yesterday when I took Choco for a walk I noticed a slight smell of spring in the air. Actually it is only visible by the plum trees that are in bloom not too far from us. But at the plum tree orchard I distinctly heard the sound of spring from all the bees buzzing around the blossoms. I snapped a picture and realized when looking at it now that it even has a little bee on the far left side. Can you find it? (like playing I SPY). As we walked back I could hear bees everywhere so Choco and I went to check out the bee hives in forest behind our house.

Directly behind our house is a large forest and part way into the forest some farmers have set up bee hives and the bees hibernate here during the winter. They will probably soon be moved out and placed in the apple and pear orchards that are in this district. The bees help to naturally pollenate the fruit trees. Anyway, the bees were very active today and Choco and I kept our distance but I did zoom in on them with the camera. Can you see all the bees? That's as close as I'm getting so you'll just have to look hard!

Friday, March 23, 2007

Wicked quilts go home

Yesterday, Hiromi-chan and her sister came for their last lesson and I gave them their Wicked quilts. They seemed pleased with them and I'm glad I made them for the girls. I hope to see both Keiko and Hiromi when they come back to Utsunomiya in the summer.

I've known both these girls since they were in kindergarten! I was teaching them at the kindergarten when they were there and after that off and on privately. Doesn't that make me feel old!

I decided to make a great babaloa recipe from my friend, Eiko-san to serve the girls and it really was delicious. Unfortunately I had planned to make it in a gelatin mold but when I got to the "pour into mold" part I couldn't find my mold! I must have tossed it in one of my cleaning sprees. I know I had one years ago... No longer in any cupboard though I looked high and low. The babaloa was still delicious.

Strawberry Babaloa

1 pack strawberries
2 egg yolks
4 tablespoons sugar
200 cc. milk
15 g gelatin
70 cc. water
22 cc. cream

  1. sprinkle gelatin over water and let set
  2. heat milk and sugar slightly, add gelatin
  3. add egg yolks
  4. blend strawberries, milk mixture, and cream in blender
  5. pour into mold and let set two hours
  6. serve with strawberry sauce or jam

Thursday, March 22, 2007

my boys

Yesterday morning I spent rearrangeing my sewing room. It is a small room and in September I had bought a desk with a pull out table and cabinet. I determined that maybe the reason I was getting stiff shoulders after quilting the Wicked quilts was because the table was too high. On the flip side, I was getting a backache when I rotary cut because the table was too low. Who knows but anyway, I have switched things and now the machine is on the table and the cutting board is on the desk. I may go back to the way it was but anyway, that's what I did yesterday.

I also discovered I have boxes and baskets of scraps waiting to be cut up into some regular size. I really need to do that daily. I am cutting one box of 3 1/2" strips and squares, one box of 2 " strips and squares, one box of strings (longer than 12 " width, less than 2" wide), one box of crumbs and a bag of thowaway stuff and fluff that I'm not throwing away.

I will use the strips in Prayer and Square quilts and other future projects. The 2" blocks will get used as leader-enders. The 3 1/2" squares have no purpose yet but I'm sure I'll think of something.. The strings I envision as a Heartstring quilt (of course) but I've as yet to make one of those too. It's the crumbs and fluff I don't know why I'm keeping. I've seen some of Bonnie and Tonya's crumb quilts but do I really know how they are put together? Will I do it? The fluff can supposedly be used to make cushions but I haven't made a cushion in years. Will I? Is it worth keeping this stuff? Some advice please!

Yesterday I was taken out for lunch by my two jr. high boys that will be going into high school and their mothers. As expected, the mothers and I did all the talking and the boys hardly said boo, but we had a nice time. These boys started coming for English when they were in 1st grade in elementary school and they've continued all these years. When they entered jr. high there were two or three months of attitude problems (all the teenagers I've ever taught go through this!) and I told them I wasn't going to teach them if I wasn't going to enjoy it and eventually they passed through that stage and we all persevered. As a parting question yesterday, I asked them if they liked English. That's the most I can really hope for, that the kids I teach will think of English as a door to other worlds that they'd like to open. There are better English schools, better teachers but maybe these kids will go on to study more if they've enjoyed the English they've experienced with me. Both boys don't know that they paid me a compliment by saying that English was their favorite subject in school and the one they got the best grades in. It makes me feel I've colored the world around me a little.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


Can you tell that I'm tickled pink about my new found machine quilting technique? I took a picture of the Wicked quilt border and have made a title banner for the blog. That in itself took a lot of messing around and it isn't quite the right width but I am pleased with the border and the blog banner. What fun I have on this blog! Tetsu says, "You're the only one who gets so excited. No one else can tell the difference between the cats or your daily patchwork progress." True, but the blog is a fun spot in my daily life so I'm content.

I thought I'd tell you about the banner fabric. This fabric became very popular 15 years ago in Japan and for awhile I would run across it in different patchwork and quilting books in Japan. I'd open a book and think"Oh, there's that fabric again. How pretty!" Then one day I happened upon it in one of the fabric stores and though it was expensive I just felt I had to have it. I think I paid $15 for one yard and 15 years ago that was still unheard of. But it was so pretty, I just wanted to have some to look at in my stash. I'd still run across it in Japanese books and now I'd think, "There's my fabric again!"

A summer or two later when I was in the States I came across the exact same fabric. On sale! For $3 a yard. Let's say, I was beyond happiness and was more into disbelief! I bought 5 yards just out of spite! So back home in Japan I now had 6 yards of this beautiful fabric that I still liked but it didn't shimmer and gleam like it used to (it wasn't $15 fabric anymore, it was $3 fabric. Does that make sense?) Eventually I made a Garden Twist quilt from the Quilt Shop Series book In The Beginning, and even made myself a skirt and blouse! I've used the 6 yards in lots and lots of my projects over the years and after ripping up the skirt and blouse this year I think I'm seeing the end of it. My Garden Twist quilt is hanging in the entryway this month, but it is getting quite faded so may have to be retired soon. I'm glad I was able to use "my fabric" in the two Wicked Quilts and now for awhile have a blog banner to remind me of it.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007


It's been a busy day of teaching so far, so I really don't have much to tell anyone. How about a simple cookie recipe? Yesterday (and this past week) I've made these cookies with all of the kids who come for English and they were a hit. In an hour's time the kids could make about 48 cookies, three batches of 16 at a time, and I allowed them to eat as many as they wished and they took the rest home. There were always a few extra for me to bake later for Tetsu or ladies' English classes.

Potato Chip Cookies

1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg
2 cups crushed potato chips
1 cup chopped nuts
2 cups flour

  1. mix butter, sugar, vanilla and egg
  2. add in potato chips, nuts and flour
  3. make into balls and bake at 170 ゜C. (350゜ F.) for 10 minutes
  4. sprinkle with powdered sugar
Besides that, do you want to see cat pictures again? Sorry my cats aren't more interesting. This is how they were sitting yesterday morning here and there around the living room.

Monday, March 19, 2007

An experiment

Thank you Simonetta!

Simonetta gave me some directions about how to put a cute picture on my blog. I am so computer illiterate that I really doubted that I'd be able to do this but it doesn't hurt to try! On top of that the website was in French and I certainly don't read French! (I remembered that "chat" was cat and "chien" was dog so I got to those pages. Well, my first attempt and I've got a cute picture on my blog! So proud of myself! I think there was some other step that I missed but I'm not pushing my luck today. Yeah me! And thank you again Simonetta!

Hmmm. I may have spoken too soon. Sometimes the picture disappears.....


I have just this moment finished the two Wicked Quilts! A little behind the schedule I set on Saturday but they are done! The quilting went fast though maybe I hurried through a bit too much to enjoy the last. Can you tell where one lets off and the other begins? So many similar fabrics it's hard to tell. One has been bound in dark maroon, the other bound in light blue. Maybe the light blue one, the second one, has better quilting. I haven't decided what to put on the labels. Let the girls choose which one they want and then I can make duplicate labels, or decide myself and write each girl's name on the label. What do you think? Does it matter?

I'm going to bake cookies with my third grade class in a few minutes so I'm signing off now. Hope to write more tomorrow. Maybe even get a better picture?

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Leiya's family

Let's see. It is Sunday morning and the day has just started. We've gone for our walk, Tetsu is out cleaning street gutters (the neighbors take turns monthly and this month is our month.) We also have a neighborhood general meeting scheduled for this morning that Tetsu will definitely go to but I'm not so sure about me.

What can I tell you about today?

How about Leiya? Leiya is 17 and has been in Ohio for a year and a half. She graduated from a neighborhood jr. high but instead of applying for and taking tests for Japanese high school she wanted to go to the States for further education. She had been talking about this off and on from the time she went into jr. high, but I figured it was an impossibility. Takumi had already gone off to the States and was staying with my brother's family. How many kids could I ask him to take on!? Leiya's English while passing in the conversation department, wasn't really good enough to take classes by and of course the biggest problem, who would take her?

A few years ago, a very nice family American family had walked into our church one morning so I went over to greet them. Actually I wasn't sure if they needed English help or not since the wife was obviously Oriental (Chinese American as it turned out) and could very well have been Japanese. (The husband obviously foreign!) They definitely were in need of English help and had just transferred to the city and they were looking for a church to attend. They had three little boys and right away considered enrolling the two youngest in the church kindergarten. From that point on our family became friends with this family. On Sundays I would translate the sermon to the best of my abilities (by writing as quickly as I could what was being said and at the end of the paper passing it on to Scott who read it and passed it on to Bessie). They would often invite us over for lunch and a couple of times Scott came over to help us out with our computer or with bicycles (he repairs them) or I'd go out to lunch with Bessie. Leiya babysat for them once or twice I think.

Fast forward a couple years later when the family had returned to Ohio and Leiya was talking about going to America. "There's no way, Leiya! To go to high school you'd have to be there for at least three years! Keion can't take you and who else would take on a foreign student for three years!? One year maybe, but not three years!" We went back and forth with this until one day someone asked Leiya if she had prayed about it. I think she answered, no, but I suddenly realized that I hadn't prayed either. I'd just assumed that it wasn't possible. Well, pray I did and then God hit me with going boldly before the Lord. I took this also to mean, going boldly to this good family and asking them if they might take Leiya for high school. Their answer was so quickly yes that I said, "well, pray about it!" And by the way this was for three years! They still said yes!

We hemmed and hawed for a couple more months wondering if Leiya was too young, if she had the dedication, personality, ability etc. etc. to move to the States and blend in with a new family, a new school, a new culture. In the summer of 2005 I took her to the States and settled her in. You cannot believe how Bessie prepared for her! The youngest boy agreed to move out of his room and bunk with his brother. Bessie repainted the room, bought new bedroom furniture, just welcomed her with open arms!

Life hasn't always been easy I'm sure, and there have been bouts of homesickness, and spats with different family members. As someone once put it, Leiya's host family is storing up treasures in heaven for all the good works they are doing for Leiya and we are eternally grateful to them. We saw Leiya last summer and she looks good and seems to be maturing. I'm sure it is because of the love and guidance that the family gives to her. And of course the prayers we all pray. And Leiya, too, has been working harder than she ever has in her life and realizing that she can do a lot she never expected she could.

Thank you Lord! Thank you Scott, Bessie, Noah, Caleb and Elijah! And thank you Leiya!

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Sewing again!

Wow! I have put in a marathon sewing day today! It feels good! First of all cleaned the house. Then went to church to do the cleaning there. THEN came home to sew! I did that for about two hours and decided that Choco needed a walk and I needed to get some movement into my day so we went for a long walk. Unfortunately it is still pretty cold and wintery around here so though I took my camera there isn't much to show. Everything is still pretty gray.

Back home I went back to the sewing machine and sewed continually until now. I won't tell you how many hours. I have finished up the inner quilting for the second Wicked Quilt. This evening I will put on the binding and tomorrow will freehand quilt the borders. All that will be left is to make a couple of labels. As expected, the second quilt is turning out nicer than the first. The quilting is better of course. I get in the perfectionist mode and think about ripping out one or two of the freathered wreaths in the first quilt and doing them again. NO! It doesn't have to be perfect. It is made with love and prayers and that is enough!

Friday, March 16, 2007

Kindergarten graduation

Today was Mifumi Kindergarten's graduation. In Japan, kindergarten graduations are quite a big deal and Mifumi's is quite nice. The kids are all dressed up in caps and gowns much like we see at high school and college graduations in the States, and a lot of tears are shed by children, parents and teachers.

The ceremonies were held in the church which is above the kindergarten, and at the front of the church was displayed a banner that Furui-san and I made five or six years ago for the kindergarten. The kindergarten logo is taken from the Bible story of Jesus turning the two fish and five loaves that a child had brought, into an abundance of food. We felt quite proud that again today (and any time there is an entrance or graduation ceremony) it was displayed in a prominent place.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

A Japanese doll

Tonight Keiko-chan and Hiromi-chan came for English. Keiko-chan was home for spring break from college. Hiromi-chan is getting ready to go away to college at the end of the month. I've known the two of them since they were in kindergarten and one or the other of them has been coming all the way out to Nikko once a week for English since they entered high school. These are the two girls that I'm trying to make the two Wicked Quilts for.

Anyway, Keiko-chan brought pictures tonight so I asked if I could scan a couple and post them on my blog and she said yes. (I didn't give her my blog address because I don't want her to know I'm making her a quilt yet.) She spent a couple of days in Kyoto which is avery traditional city with many of the historical temples and shrines. I haven't been there in years but anyway one of the things that Keiko-chan did was to get dressed up as a maiko. I think foreigners are more accustomed to the word geisha though there is some difference between a maiko and a geisha but I'm not sure what. Keiko-chan was dressed properly in the long kimono with the high waist and the tall wooden clogs. She had her hair put up with a wig fit on top and had the traditional white make-up applied. Certainly not everyday wear unless you work as a maiko, but she looks very nice. Just like a Japanese doll!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Sweet Vel

This isn't the greatest picture of Velvet but it will have to do for today. I call Velvet "Sweet Vel" because he really does have the nicest personality. Vel must be about 7 years old. Seven years or so ago, I noticed him in the forest one morning.. Someone had dumped him with an open can of tunafish. This always sends me into a panic. Another animal! I kept looking into the forest but resolved that I wasn't going to go searching for a new pet but when I went out into the yard, there he was on the back doorstep sleeping on a pair of garden shoes. Complete breakdown on my part! I grabbed the car keys in hysteria took off to the next city. I called Tetsu and was sobbing so hard he came from work and talked to me awhile. We can't take in another animal! If I take in this one, I'll have to take in the next one too. (We had just adopted another stray, Zorro, a couple months previously.) We agreed that I should stay away from the house until evening and if the cat was still there then we would take it in. You know the rest of the story. He was still there and he became our Sweet Vel. He has the softest fur (thus the name.) He is the most lovable of all our cats and always wants to be with one of us. He is the only cat we've ever had that will come when you call his name and he especially likes Tetsu.

Last summer I went away with some friends overnight and left Tetsu in charge of the animals but when I came back Mrs. Yano greeted me with "Did your cat come back?" What!!!?? I called Tetsu and he said that when he woke up that morning Velvet was gone. This is a cat who never goes outside. (All our cats are indoor cats.) We determined that he must have fallen off the veranda in the middle of the night and though we looked and looked and Tetsu kept apologizing, no Vel. The next two days were filled with typhoons and terrible rain and even though I went door to door to the neighbors no one had seen Vel. I put signs up, I spent a couple hours everyday roaming the forest and calling. Kaoru-san and friends were coming over to offer sympathy. But on the fifth day... Vel came out of the forest and never was the worse from his five days of living in the wild! I don't know how many times I've thanked God for bringing Vel back to us!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Pass or fail

This is not a cheerful blog.

In our city today the high school entrance results were posted and so all the jr. high kids who applied and tested for prefectural high schools went with their parents to find out if they passed or failed. I hate that word. Failed. I know some of my Japanese friends will balk when they read this, but I really dislike the Japanese education system. Maybe since I only know the American system and that is from long ago, I have a biased opinion. I would really like to know from any of you out there in other countries whether this is a normal system or if the American one is the one that's abnormal.

What I'm leading up to is that two of my jr. high boys that have been coming for English for years, graduated yesterday and then went to the high schools that they had applied to, to get their results. One boy passed. One boy didn't. The boy who passed had applied to a mediocre high school. The boy who "failed" had applied to a higher level high school on the advice of his jr. high teacher. He is a smart boy, the higher level school would give him better opportunity to apply to a college three years from now. But since he failed, he will instead be going to a private high school and everyone who knows him will know that he was a "failure". Acceptance is based on the entrance exam alone so maybe he had a bad day. Who knows, but it is a traumatic experience to have failed this major test at age 15 and be labeled as a "loser" who couldn't get into the high school of choice. I really hate this system and feel so sorry for these young kids who start out their high school years with such a low opinion of themselves.

The boy who didn't pass came with his mother to tell me the results. They brought a box of cakes and thanked me for teaching him these many years. He and his mother were going to the jr. high school next to tell the results to his jr. high teachers. All of us commiserate with him and say how unexpected this is and try to convince him that this other school will be good for him. Unfortunately, Takumi went through this exact same experience 6 years ago. He tried for the same prefectural school, he didn't pass, he went instead to the same private school. I'm sorry to say I wasn't impressed with the school he went to so it was very difficult for me to be encouraging today to this boy.

I'll try to be more cheerful tomorrow.


Sometimes I wonder if I have a commitment deficiency. This may seem strange since I've stayed married for 27 years, many of the things I do I've done for years and years without letup. But when it comes to quilting I find it very hard to write down those goals in the sidebar of my blog. It's like I'm tying a noose around my neck. If I don't put it in writing then I don't really have to do it, but if it's there, I'm committed come hell or high water! What I'm referring to, was that yesterday I left my blog page with the very non-committal comment, "I could do a border of peacock feathers like Tazzie does, but I'm not sure about that..." What I actually meant was, "I am going to do this thing and if it turns out lousy you should know I didn't have my heart in it." Anyway, yesterday afternoon I put the quilt under the needle again and started the borders. And they are great fun! Of course some jigs and jags but all in all quite acceptable and I'm very proud of myself. They add a little fun and flair. I will finish it up today (come hell or high water!) and continue on with the other Wicked quilt which I will quilt the same way! There. Now I'm committed!

Monday, March 12, 2007

The Wicked Quilt...again

Well, over the weekend I did get the Wicked quilt finished. It is amaturishly machine quilted but I guess since the girl doesn't know quilts from blankets, it will have to do. From a distance it looks quite nice, but up close... It is not going to convince my hand quilting friends of the beauty of machine quilting. I say finished but I could do a border of peacock feathers such as Tazzie quilts does but I'm not sure about that yet or if I have the time since I'm working on my second Wicked quilt now. I got all the blocks made yesterday and today will put on the border. It looks so similar to the first quilt that people aren't going to be able to tell the difference (quite a lot of the same fabrics.) Wednesday I'll be going to the fabric shop again with Furui-san so I'll buy backing then and by Thursday hope to be quilting it too. It needs to be done by the next Thursday. You can see I run things pretty close. Got some advice from Silver Thimbles and I may try to quilt the "stitch in the ditch" lines using the walking foot...

I got to talk with Leiya this weekend and she sounds very happy. She's loving her art class especially and has been introduced to drawing and now photography and even ceramics. Here are a couple of pictures she sent. My budding artist!