Monday, April 30, 2007

Golden Week

Well, this is April 30 and I still have goals to reach that I will do today or else! (Clean the house. Get a Prayer and Square quilt done. Write to Leiya. Plant some flowers.) It is also the first day off of Golden Week in Japan which gives us a three day weekend at the beginning, then a four day weekend at the end of the week. Let's see... Golden Week consists of Showa no Hi, in honor of the Showa Era, Kenpo no Hi which is Constitution Day, Midori no Hi which is a day in honor of greenery and nature and Boy's Day which is to celebrate boys (obviously). Today I can work and play on my own time schedule. Tetsu went off to work as usual, but he did get into the relaxation mode by having breakfast out in the yard. Choco was happy to have the extra attention and she ate dog snacks while we ate breakfast.

As for the tale of the rest of Saturday's bus trip, (after the remodeling fair) we spent a nice afternoon in the famous Chinatown in Yokohama. The bus dropped us off and we were given three hours to play around. It was so crowded that we never did get any good pictures and not a one of Tetsu or of us together but here is one of me enjoying my first visit to Chinatown. The architecture is definitely Chinese, this is not Japanese architecture! We ate a lot and wandered the stores but actually didn't buy anything. Our morning had started at 6:30 and we finally arrived home around 9:30 at night, but it was a wonderful day and something that Tetsu and I have never had a chance to do before.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Toilet talk

A couple of weeks ago I was invited to join a bus tour to Yokohama about three hours south of where we live so we signed up. The tour was sponsored by an internationally known remodeling corporation and the whole deal was free! At 6:30 in the morning we were herded onto a huge tourist bus with about 150 other people (Three buses) and the day began. After a lovely bus trip with snacks and lunch provided, we finally arrived at our destination at around 10:00 Three major companies were having a fair of remodeling products and building innovations and we got to see the future of Japan in the remodeling world!

In honor of the day and after looking at all the new-fangled plumbing options I'm going to explain a little more about yesterday's picture. Quilting Fitzy mentioned something about the toilet Patora was sitting on so hang on to your belt, I'm telling you about toilets today. Whopee!

I spent some time in Japan when I was a college student and one of my first rememberances is when all the American foreign students gathered in a room and debated about how to use a Japanese toilet. Even in the department stores they have the semi-traditional toilets and it was a matter of looking at this thing and trying to figure out which way you faced, how you aimed (women this is a challenge) and not fall down in the process. I'm including a picture I took when I helped a school girl write a report about Japan. No, I usually don't take pictures of toilets.

Japanese have mastered the art of squatting with their heels on the ground and knees high around their necks. This is not a position that most foreigners can manage at all, not to mention for the amount of time it takes to use a toilet. I still have to grab on to walls and pipes around me so that I don't fall backwards or worse yet in! It is also very difficult to keep one's pant legs or skirt off the ground and who knows how the ladies with kimono manage it! Thankfully, there are many options besides the traditional toilet nowadays.

My own family bathroom is just this. That is the whole of the bathroom, a small area no larger than a closet. The normal American features like a sink, a bathtub, showers, mirrors etc. are all in a different room (actually two different rooms) and a toilet is completely utilitarian. There are some compensations however. If you look at the toilet tank you will see a spigot and this ingenious invention is for washing your hands! Everytime the toilet is flushed, clean water comes pouring out of this spigot and goes into the tank to be flushed down the next time. How ecologically sound! Many people decorate this little oasis with colorful stones, plastic flowers etc. I'm sorry I have no decorations to show you.

Another absolutely wonderful feature of Japanese toilets is that the seats are heated! Ladies, this is heaven! A toasty warm throne to sit on and it is even temperature adjustable. This is really nice in Japan because we don't "waste" heat by heating the whole house, just a room at a time so the bathroom in the winter is icy cold. Lovely invention the heated toilet seat!

I must admit that I am really outdated because most of my friends' toilets do fascinating things like shoot water up at you for personal cleaning (do not let a child near this button. They will inevitably want to play in the fountain.) Some bathrooms have lights that turn on automatically and the toilet lid smoothly raises when you enter the room (like an invisible butler... Anyone in here besides me?) Some toilets have lights around the tank bottom so you know where to sit in the dark. (I don't know why) Some toilets flush automatically. One feature I absolutely refuse to use is the little button that you can push that will play the sound of a toilet flushing. This is to cover up nature's true sounds. People were needlessly flushing (and using water) so the toilet people put in this fake flushing sound. This seems to be a big feature in the newer schools in Japan too. Kids too embarrassed to go because they can be heard in the next stall! Good grief!

At yesterday's fair we saw many examples of the toilets of tomorrow. Some that adjust in height depending on the person using it, others that push you to a standing position when you're finished. Some toilet rooms were enhanced with a TV and a touch tone internet screen so that you can do your business while you do your business.

Ah... I wonder if I want to live long enough to see the new toilet wonders in my own house!

I hope to have a more refined topic for tomorrow's post.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Playing today

I'm off to play all day! Tetsu and I are off for the day.

Leave you with a picture of Patora and a saying:

If you want the best seat in the house
You'll have to move the cat!

Friday, April 27, 2007

Wonky Word quilt

Look what I've got today!!!! I'm so proud of myself! Of course, I have no idea what it is. It will be too small for a bed quilt and too large for a wall hanging. The good catch-all term lap quilt I guess! But look at the colors and look and the words! Do you see those undeceipherable squiggles here and there? That is Japanese! Yeah me!!! I got four Japanese words "written" in the simplest form of the language into my quilt! I just had to put it all together today!

What do they say? The first one (in green) says ganko. "Stubborn". Why would I want that word in Leiya's quilt? It is sort of a family joke that she is very stubborn in her opinions but it actually can mean that a person stands up for what he believes and has good connotations.

The next word (in lavender) says ganbariya. It means "stickler" and has the nuance that the person will stick with something and not give up.

The next light green word says sunao. This means "obedient" and no, not like an obedient dog. It sort of has the nuance of a caring person who will be cooperative.

The last lavender word says doryokuka and this means a "hard-worker" or someone who puts out a lot of effort.

So there you have a Japanese lesson!

Now, what to do about the borders. For sure a small dividing border in black but after that? Any ideas? Go bright? I have some of that bright fabric that the "happy" is in and I could make a narrow border of that. Anything else I'm going to have to go buy at a fabric store. I can't get batiks in Japan, and probably not any true dyed fabric but some of those fern fossils fabrics are available in limited colors. What to do? What to do?

How about quilting? Should I quickly get it done by machine or spend some time hand quilting around the words (stitch in the ditch)? Then I could do something fancy around the border too? What to do? What to do?

Do you get the idea that my brain has stalled!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Bazaar quilt coming along!

Today is Thursday and I was with my quilting friends today! We are getting along quite well on the bazaar quilt. The main part of the top is made and we were sewing centers to the applique flowers (for the borders) while we chatted today. Still a bit of homework for us to do, but I think by the next meeting we'll have it at the flimsy stage. We are very pleased with how "cute" it looks. It's a busier quilt than we've made before but I'm sure it will be very striking when it is completed.

Whenever I meet my friends I know to take the camera because someone is sure to show something crafty. Today it was Furu-san again and she let us admire her cute little embroidery boxes. Actually, Furui-san has always been an embroiderer first and a quilter next, and she teaches embroidery and has lovely pieces decorating her house. She said she just cut out a house pattern from cardboard and covered it with her embroidery and she seemed to think it was very simple. So lovely and elegant! The roofs open up so you can put odds and ends inside.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Tanya's calligraphy!?

Actually, I had great plans today to show you some of my latest industriousness, but I'm coming down with a cold (rats!) and took a nap today instead of sewing. I'm really excited about what I'm making though, so even though I don't have something really thrilling, I'm showing you what I made over the weekend.

A couple of weeks ago I made contact with Tonya. Let's say I started out as a lurker on her blog, then finally got up courage to leave a comment. But she is so "famous" (in the patchwork blogging world) that I doubted if she realized she had another admirer. One reason I commented was because I was so blatantly copying one of her quilts and sooner or later I'd want to post it and someone was bound to notice that it is her quilt. I felt I needed to let her know I was using her ideas. This is the Wonky Word quilt that I've shown block pictures now and then.

Tonya wrote back and said she'd read some of my past blogs especially about how Japanese words and English words had different nuances, and she suggested I put the words in the quilt in Japanese. At least Leiya and I would know what I was writing (she's going to be the recipient of the quilt). Wow, that was an idea! Tonya was interested in what Japanese writing looked like so I sent her a picture of some of my printing. Tonya laughed and agreed that this may be harder than expected but I could at least try to make Japanese words using the English romanized system (is everybody following this?) I got to thinking. Wait a minute, I wonder if I really could use Tonya's system and make Japanese characters? So this weekend I tried.

Yeah! I did it! I actually made two Japanese wonky words! Now this may not look like anything to the rest of you but these really are characters albeit the simplest system of writing in Japan.. I'm so proud of myself and even though I gave myself a headache from all the figuring, I am planning to make two more wonky Japanese words and add them to my Wonky Word Quilt.

Well, it is not the calligraphy you saw yesterday, but it is my wonky Japanese calligraphy and I am thrilled!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Japanese calligraphy

Today I'm giving my English student, Shiori-chan a chance to tell you about her hobby. Shiori is a very good student and an accomplished pianist too. She has many interests and last week she brought over this piece of calligraphy that she did for her calligraphy lesson. I found it fascinating and asked her to write about it.

Hello, my name is Shiori Yamagata and Tanya teaches me English. I’m in the second year of high school. I started doing Japanese calligraphy when I was in the third grade of elementary school and today I would like to show you my calligraphy.

Do you know what this is? This is called Shinsousenjinmon. It is a work of calligraphy written with brush and ink. This work is made of 1000 Chinese characters and together they make up different phrases. This particular piece of calligraphy is written in gold ink and I have to make the ink myself. Before I begin to write, I must mix together gold dust, gelatin and hot water. This gold ink (in Japanese it is called kindei) is easily affected by temperature and humidity and when the room gets cold, kindei thickens. When the air is dry, it evaporates and the ink won’t stay on the brush. Kindei doesn't go on paper as well as normal ink, so it was very difficult for me to use it. I wrote this using a very fine brush and it took me five months to write. The black paper is divided into 1000 squares and the squares are 3 centimeters. by 2.5 centimeters. Altogether there are 1000 characters and I practiced at least 1500 times. In total I wrote 2500 characters!!!! No mistakes are allowed when doing this work so if I made a mistake I’d have to start over completely! I didn’t make any mistakes but by the end I was going crazy!!!!

Right now, I’m practicing a work of 1700 words. It will be with normal black ink but still it is very difficult. However I’ll do my best!

Monday, April 23, 2007

A real beauty

Okay, I promised something gorgeous and here it is! A quilt I won in a quilt raffle four years ago! Anyone who has read the blog may think "Hey, didn't she win a quilt back when she was a college student?" You're right. I did, but then four years ago l won another one! I don't believe in luck but I do believe I've been undeservedly blessed!

I was in California on a yearly visit when I remembered that a local quilt guild had a quilt show every other year in the summer and maybe this was the year. My mom called around and found out that the show was that very weeked, so we went the next day and I drooled over the fabrics and quilts. Now this is a fairly small quilt show but even so they had this spectacular quilt hanging at the front of the room and of course I bought a raffle ticket. I always buy a raffle ticket when I see a quilt being raffled whether it is at a quilt show (I haven't been to too many) or at a street fair etc. Since I do a yearly raffle for the kindergarten bazaar, I know how much work goes into a quilt, how much the proceeds are appreciated.

The day of the raffle drawing my mom became sick and we took her to the emergency room and spent the morning there and then brought her home and put her to bed. Completely zonked out (Mom, that is). My sister-in-law and brother and I decided to go out for an hour or two since Mom was sleeping and would not be moving from the bed (we thought!) When we got back, no car! No mom! Where could she have gone? She was not in any working condition when we had left. Did she drive herself back to the hospital? Had someone come and taken her someplace in her car? We really panicked! Call the neighbors? Call the police? A couple of minutes later Mom drives up, barely able to manuever herself out of the car! I was so furious! Until I saw what she was holding. The quilt! The guild had called, said I'd won it and Mom had pulled herself together to go pick it up for me before they quilt show closed up. Put Mom back to bed and just gaze at this gorgeous quilt.

It is amazingly appliqued. There are absolutely no stitches visible whatsoever. One of my quilting friends even wonders if it hasn't all been glued down! She suggests I rip apart a small corner of the applique just to see how it can be completely invisible. The colors are sooooo beautiful!

Two weeks later, I did go to the guild and thank them in person and wrote a thank you letter to the president etc. I had one request; that they send me a label to sew onto it since there was no information about the quilt whatsoever. Unfortunately, they never did get around to this step, and so I have no label on the quilt, I don't know the exact name of the quilt guild, nor who were the amazing appliquers who made it. That is why labels are important girls! If not for my pictures, I wouldn't even know when I won the quilt! But it graces my livingroom (this month) and I love looking at it daily! Isn't it a beauty?!

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Broken Window Syndrome

I promise to show you something gorgeous tomorrow but for now bear with my ramblings...

This morning, Tetsu and I went out on the main road and picked up litter along the road. This is our regular Saturday or Sunday morning activity.

Long ago I read about the Broken Window Syndrome. This is a theory that if a building has a broken window in it, soon the whole building and then the neighborhood will fall to pieces. If one window is broken, it is so much easier for the next vandal to break the next window and since there are two broken, the third vandal figures no one notices or cares anyway and so it goes. The building becomes broken down, somebody leaves an old sofa in front of it, next a paint can, some tires and the neighborhood goes to pot.

In my own home I can recognize that I become blind to the junk that piles up. If a juice glass is set on the coffee table, it is not long before there will be a pair of pliers, some nail clippers, a can of bug spray etc. Worse is realizing that the toolbox has been sitting by the chair for over two months and I didn't notice. Broken Window Syndrome.

The roads in my town are terribly littered. I think as the years go by the problem is becoming worse. I can't figure this out. The area we live in is gorgeous! The scenery, the peacefulness. But look down or peer into the forest and there are cans and plastic bottles and cigarette butts and plastic bags. Why don't the people care? Don't they see the litter? I know that the schools have tried addressing this problem and teaching morals to the school kids. They have a bi-annual garbage clean-up and the kids are taken to surrounding areas to pick up litter on the roads to the school. Parents get involved too, but in a few days it starts to accumulate again and sadly I've seen the very kids who were cleaning the week before, drop wrappers and cans on the street as they play.

Nearly ten years ago I started on a private campaign to clean up the country road and slowly, one bag a week it looks pretty good. Unfortunately there has never been a week when there was no garbage. Once Choco joined our family it was too hard to walk the dog and pick up garbage alone and so Tetsu took over the pick-up project. We consider it sort of a game. Who is the person who likes Cool Mint Chewing Gum so much? Wonder if the person who nightly throws out a beer can is alright, there aren't any beer cans this week. Someone must have caught a cold or else has hay fever, there are an awful lot of tissues today.

Another reason for picking-up litter is because I think seeing all this (or not seeing all this) is contaminating the minds and hearts of the people who go by. This is my own private Broken Window Syndrome theory and I'm not sure I can explain. The children who blindly walk by all the garbage on their way to school are getting the message that the person who threw it out didn't care about them (the people who have to see it) and anyone else who closes their eyes and walks past (it's not my garbage. I didn't put it there!) is giving the message they they don't care either. If you live in a formal setting you will be formal. If you live in a casual setting you will become casual. If you live in a junkyard you will become junk. Anyway, I'm trying to change my neighborhood even if no one realizes it. Who knows but a hundred years from now this little part of the world with have happier hearts because some lady picked up a broken bottle...

I need to go clean my sewing room now...

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Show-You Wieners

Ok. How about a recipe today? I was reminded of this recipe a few days ago when someone asked me if there was any combination of ingredients that we might consider strange that actually tastes pretty good. These are called Show-You Wieners and the recipe has been in my family since before I was born. My grandparents on my mother's side were from Japan but my grandfather studied business in New York and then started his own soy sauce factory in the little town of Columbia City, Indiana. This was back in the 1920's so no one had ever heard of soy sauce and he was basically greeted with "What is this black stuff?" In order to get his product accepted he invented different recipes and held dinners so that people would become accustomed to this new taste and one of the recipes is this one. Shoyu in Japanese means soy sauce so the naming is a play on words. As I child my brother and I loved to eat this and my children have grown up loving it too. Not long ago, Takumi e-mailed me from the States asking me for the recipe.

Show-You Wieners

  • 1 or 2 packages of wieners or hot dogs or whatever
  • Slice wieners into bite size pieces
  • Put into sauce pan
  • Add water (1 cup?)
  • Add soysauce (1/2 cup?)
  • Add sugar (4-8 tablespoons?)
  • Add sweet rice wine, Mirin (1/4 cup?)
  • Simmer until quite boiled down
  • Serve over white rice
You can see the amounts are pretty vague. Flavor to taste but too much soy sauce can make them too salty so go easy on the soy sauce. In last night's case I added green onions just because someone gave me a huge bundle and they were taking up space in my kitchen. You can also skip the rice wine since I doubt very much my grandfather had access to that in Indiana nearly 90 years ago. Don't tell my Japanese friends but my brother and I (and my kids) like to put butter on our rice and pour the hot, sweet sauce and wieners over it!

Friday, April 20, 2007

More kimono

This is a picture of Mrs. Yano and the kimono quilt that I gave to her last week. I did make one more thing from the kimono fabric that she had asked me to use. This very bright orange fabric with gold threads in it was the one that gave me a headache when I was making the kimono star quilt but I knew Kyoko-san really loved it and I must admit it made a nice accent to the quilt. Unfortunately, you couldn't see the nice design in the fabric of the fans when it was all cut up. What to do? Well, I was cleaning out my closet (I need to remember that I do find treasures when I clean) and I came across this very flimsy hoop that I must have bought at least 10 years ago. I don't know why. It was too flimsy for quilting and too big for anything else. It was this odd oval shape but for this narrow kimono panel it was perfect! The panel wouldn't have fit in a circular hoop! So I put the panel in, hot bonded it on the back, cut away the extra fabric, decorated with a bow (to hide the screws) and Kyoko-san is very happy to have this pretty kimono fabric of her mother's, decorating her wall.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

An applique start

Look what I found when I went into my sewing room yesterday! Those cats! (I never know which one to blame!) They have no respect for my handwork! I had neatly ironed and layered my feathered star blocks and laid them reverently in the drawer (that may be taking things a bit far...) and someone managed to dig them out and leave them in a pile! Yes, the cat can open the drawer. I probably will never know who. Patora is still playing with my pincushions and for two days in a row I've found the pincushion in my armchair with pins laying around it. It's like someone has played "He loves me... he loves me not..." with my pincushion! I have to watch where I sit!

Lest people think I've stopped sewing, I'll show a picture of the feeble attempts at applique I'm doing. I love the applique Anne does and Judy does, and I really wanted to just be able to sit and applique quietly and turn out something wonderful like them. Unfortunately, I do not have pastels like Anne and I do not have folk type fabric like Judy and I'm too stingy to buy some more fabric for this and I do have a lot of fabric so I just pulled some scraps and am doing me which is not too interesting yet. The orange strip of applique is for the bazaar quilt and we are putting on leaves now. The white strip of applique is something for my living room, maybe for the piano and it is not much longer than what you see. That's not going to cover the piano but I have to think about this for awhile. I was wondering if I should dye the whole thing once it's appliqued just to get a rustic look to it...

The most exciting thing recently is that I've been in touch with Tonya and she's helping me to get back on track with the word quilt that's been up on my wall for two months. I'm so excited to have contact with her and whatever she tells me to do I'm planning to do it! Wish me the best on that project!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Tuesdays' teaching

Let's see... Yesterday a day of teaching. Actually, Tuesday's "teaching" can hardly be labled that. In the morning 4 friends come over every Tuesday and we chat (in English) and drink coffee and eat sweets for about an hour and finally get around to reading and discussing or translating an English lesson I have prepared. And they pay me for this! (Thank you so much!) In the afternoon too, 2 friends come over and we do about the same thing! Do you think I have an easy life?

Usually on Mondays I'll stop at the supermarket and buy some cookies or crackers or something we can eat with our coffee. If I'm especially industrious I'll make a cake or cookies or something. Quite often (almost every week?) one of the ladies will bring a sweet back from a trip she's taken or they will make something. Some weeks we have only my measly crackers and some weeks everybody has brought something so there is no room on the table for study materials! Just coffee and goodies! (Not good for my diet.)

Yesterday, one lady made cookies, another lady brought some bean paste sweets and another lady brought cherry blossom tea sweets. Most traditional Japanese sweets have sweet bean paste somewhere in them and though many foreigners shy away from them, if you are planning to stay in Japan very long you'd better aquire a taste for sweet beans! I love them! Anyway, the cherry blossom sweet is obviously in honor of the cherry blossom season that is at it's peak, and it was very refreshing to the eyes as well as delightful to the taste buds.

And lastly, a picture of some little notebooks that one lady brought as presents! Last week, she had brought this nice memo notebook made from recycled paper and a bright Japanese print cover and we all had commented on how nice it was. She has a friend who makes these using the traditional book binding process and yesterday she brought a memo notebook for each of us from her friend! What a wonderful network of people I know!

By the way, I must apologize to any people who get a notice in the e-mail about a new post being published on my blog. I'm still not sure how this works as I still have to check out every blog daily to find new posts. Anyway, I often "publish" my blog, then go and look and it and then start rearranging the pictures and publish it again until I'm satisfied. I think I read on someone's blog that she was could find notices of recently published blogs in her e-mail box. Gosh if mine was on her list she might have been getting 4 or 5 notices just because I was still playing around. I've resolved to post only once and forget the perfectionism!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007


"And we ourselves know and believe the love which God has for us."
1 John 4:16

"Never doubt in the dark what God told you in the light."
V Raymond Edman

My heart weeps for the tragedy in Virginia.

Monday, April 16, 2007


Tetsu had a business trip to Tokyo last Friday and before he left he asked me what I wanted him to bring back as a present. Although you might think that since I'm American and live in Japan, that I'm very international and cosmopolitan but actually I sometimes lament that I've just become a country girl. All my English students (the ladies) are traveling around the world to far off and interesting places and using the English they've learned, but I stay in the back woods of Tochigi-prefecture. I've been to Tokyo maybe twice in the past 10 years. Tetsu too, rarely goes so both of us are country bumpkins! Anyway, I teased him and said bring me back something gorgeous from the Ginza but he said he bring back a box of dumplings! Dumplings!

He came back late Friday night and yes he is a country bumpkin. He talked about all the foreigners walking along the streets (like he'd never seen one in his life! Yoo hoo! Hello? You're looking at one!) the speed of the Bullet Train etc. He even brought back dumplings which we enjoyed with hot tea. But... best of all he brought back books!

Now, I can buy English books if I go to the neighboring city, but they are quite expensive. Still, compared to thirty years ago when I had to have my mother send me books from the States, I feel like I have access at my fingertips. For years and years I'd just keep re-reading the old English books that I had in my bookcase. (Practically memorized some of them!) Of course the internet has made everything possible and my fingers sometimes push buttons on that website before I have a chance to think!

Anyway, Tetsu's gift to me from Tokyo was a stack of books he bought at a used English bookstore! Amazing! There are many used book stores in Japan but English! Oh, I would have been in heaven! My poor husband has no idea what he bought me. If it had a #1 on the cover page he bought it. That's why there are a couple Danielle Steele and John Grisham books, not that I'm particularly a big fan of either. I'm not complaining! Yeah! This will keep me occupied at least until summer when I'll stock up again during my trip to the States! Oh, and one more pat on the back for Tetsu. All the books he picked out were in English. In the past he's thought of me at a bookstore and bought me a book and I'd have to tell him the thought was sweet but the book is in French!

Isn't that interesting that even a used bookstore will "cover" all the books you buy? This is true of most book stores in Japan. Maybe the reader doesn't want people to know what he is reading. I've never seen this done in the States.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Rice fields

Today, I have some pictures of the scenery around my house. These were taken on my walk yesterday around 6:00 in the morning. We'd had a lot of rain and the mist coming off the hills and flooded rice fields added a sense of mystery to the morning. I couldn't figure out what all those dots were in the picture and I thought the lens was dirty but I've determined that the flash picked up the fog "particles" and reflected back.

The farmers are just beginning to flood their rice fields. Most of the fields have a well and pump house near them and when one field is flooded, they just open up a gate and the overflow goes into the next field. I notice that the streams around here are very low too so some of that water is directed into the fields. In a few weeks the rice shoots will be planted and then all this will be a light green color.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Star of David Quilt

I've had this Star of David quilt done for a couple days now and I promised to post a picture of it so here you are. As I mentioned, I'm not sure how satisfied I am with this quilt. I mean, where do you put a Star of David quilt in your house? It is an odd size; that's what made it interesting for me to begin with, a hexagon quilt! It doesn't really hang flat unless all the points are pinned to the wall. It took me a long time to figure out what to do about the quilting. Machine for sure, but what? I started with invisible thread but then couldn't seen any quilting so changed to light blue which was almost white. I made a star in the center, stitched in the ditch around the star and feathered in the diamonds. I even got a few leaves in the border but they aren't so beautiful. Well, Patora likes it!

Can you tell what I'm doing with the hammer? Jane on sew create it had a post on this cute little craft and I'm not one to limit myself to quilting so I had to try it. Went to the craft store, bought some buttons to cover with fabric, hammered down the thing-a-ma-bob on the back side that you sew the thread through (this was a step I wasn't counting on. On Jane's website you could just pull out this wire on the back) covered the buttons, hot-bonded a thumbtack to the back and voila! one of a kind thumbtacks! So cute! I made a batch for myself, some for a friend and I'm planning to go back and get some more buttons so I can give them to other quilting friends! And as an exchange (that neither of us had planned) my friend gave me a pincushion that she had crocheted herself. So nice to have such generous friends!

Friday, April 13, 2007

Cherry blossoms

Yesterday was the entrance ceremony at Mifumi Kindergarten where I teach once a week. It is formal ceremony (some of the mothers were in kimono) so I went to the ceremony dressed up but ugh, I had to wear stockings! and ugh, I had to wear make-up! And double ugh! my suit is tighter than it was last year! As soon as it was over I changed back into my jeans even before I got back home!

Thirty-two 3 and 4 year olds were welcomed into the kindergarten. In Japan, there are three grades of kindergarten and halfway through the year another small class will be added. I would say 90% of Japanese children have at least two years of kindergarten starting at age 4 and maybe 50% start at age 3. To my American thinking, I wonder about the wisdom of making the kids leave their parents so early but both my kids started kindergarten at age 3 too and so far they don't seem to be suffering any traumas. I guess since Japan is a cooperative society, the idea is that everyone should get used to each other and learn to compromise, cooperate and depend on each other as soon as possible. Kindergarten starts at around 8:30 and goes until 2:00 and most kindergartens in Japan require the kids to wear uniforms and hats and have regulation bags. I think Mifumi has a cute little regulation cap but no uniforms. It considers itself quite a free thinking kindergarten and tries to encourage individualism and there are very little academics taught.

The ceremony itself was quite nice and the weather was beautiful. Cherry blossom season and entrance ceremony season are almost synonymous in Japan and parents and children will pose for pictures under the cherry trees. Almost all schools and kindergartens will have their token trees just so that the entrance ceremonies will be nice. This cute little map I got off the internet shows the dates in the different parts of Japan where the cherry blossoms can be expected to be in full bloom! Everyone get out your cameras!

Thursday, April 12, 2007


Thank you Connie for tagging me with the Thinking Blog Award! I love writing and thinking myself about what I want to write but I never thought (or still think) that it would be interesting to others! God's blessings!

Well, so many of the people I respect and who have inspired me with their blogs have already been tagged (how are these poor people going to respond to the call?!) There are three, Bonnie, Tonya and Tazzie, whom I've even dreamed about at night, isn't that funny. Some blogs I read for fun, some blogs I read for the beautiful pictures, some I read for the cats, some for the dogs, some I "read" just trying to figure out what the person is saying in a different language (and if that doesn't take thinking I don't know what does!)

But here are a few of the blogs that have sent me back time and time again to check and recheck projects, thoughts, and instructions. Judy at Quilting with Ragdolls. She and Tazzie got me started on machine quilting just a few months ago. And her applique! Gorgeous! Anne at Quilting Bebbs, I fell in love with a quilt Anne was making and have been copy-catting her ever since. Fiona at Scraps in Progress, I think I've got three of Fiona's colorful quilts on my "To Do list"! Nancy at Blogging, Near Philidelphia, Nancy just gets me thinking about life, about experiences. I know to put on my thinking cap before I visit her blog. Norma at Silver Thimble Quilting. Norma has shown me how she does machine quilting using a walking foot and I love checking out her blog for her great techniques.

I wish I could add a few more and if you ask me again in a couple days I'm sure I'll have a couple that I'm just beginning to check out.

Thank you again Connie. Love you.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007


Wednesday, Wednesday! I'm off to the kindergarten. I think kindergarten started on Monday, and I'll be teaching the 5 year old class and the 4 year old class but the 3 year old class doesn't come in til tomorrow so I'll be going tomorrow too for entrance ceremonies. Well, today I can teach in jeans. Tomorrow it's dress up time in a suit. I can never get used to the way school starts one day but the entrance ceremony is held later and the same with the end of the school. There's a graduation but still school for another week (for the rest of the students).

So, a quick post. Yesterday I finished another feathered star! I keep posting pictures of each star but they all look the same even to my eyes. Connie asked me how I pieced them, and yes, they are hand pieced, that's why I have a goal of one a month. They are all in blue because I suppose when I started I was thinking of snow flakes or something but I'm getting tired of the blue now. Just one more to go! This one is especially nice because my friend Sachiko sent me some lovely Liberty fabric scraps and I just had to use the blue for this quilt. Liberty fabric certainly does sew up nicely! Cleo had to christen the block with a sit down only minutes after it was finished!

Also started binding the Star of David Quilt and I hope to be able to show that to you tomorrow. Some mistakes with the machine quilting and I'm not sure I'm satisfied with this quilt or not but it was an experiment to start with so let's say I've learned some things.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Mabo Dofu

Well, the school year has started in Japan and so I've gone back to my regular teaching schedule. The break was fun while it lasted! Started off yesterday morning at the nursery school and met some of the new kids in the three year old class. Came home to do a little sewing but didn't get enough done to report on anything. Taught in the afternoon and again in the evening. A nice way to start the school year.

I'm really racking my brain to find something to post on today but I took pictures as I was cooking last night so how about a recipe (that I can't imagine anyone is going to try...) Last night's meal was Mabo Dofu which I suppose is actually Chinese. This is a no brainer for me. It is one of my family's favorites. I don't need a recipe since I can make it with my eyes closed. Usually I have ground meat on hand and tofu so I don't have to go shopping special, and I can make it in 15 minutes or less. Here goes...

Mabo Dofu

150 gms ground meat
2 green onions (big thick ones. Maybe called leeks in some countries)
1 piece of fresh ginger about the size of your thumb
1 clove of garlic
Red pepper flakes (or a dried red pepper. The really spicy one)
1 Tbsp miso (fermented bean paste)
2 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp sake
1 Tbsp sugar
1 boullion cube
chili oil or sesame seed oil
corn starch

  1. Brown ground meat, add chopped green onions, ginger, garlic and red pepper.
  2. Add 1 cup water and flavorings
  3. Simmer 5 minutes
  4. Add tofu cut into cubes and heat through
  5. Thicken slightly with corn starch and add chili oil to desired spicyness
Serve with rice.

I'm assuming no one wants the recipe for jellyfish salad!