Thursday, May 31, 2007

A good month!

May has come to an end and the world around me is green, my sewing room is a mess and I have two ongoing projects in sight and at least two put away in the cupboard to think about later. As of yesterday, I reached my May goals so I'd say May was a good month!

After a Bible study and some good conversation this morning I spent a couple of hours quilting the Wonky Word quilt. Hmm. Since it is all freehand quilting there is a big variation in the pattern from one day to the next. I noticed yesterdays' fans were big and wide while some days' fans have been compact and narrow. I wonder if it has something to do with the mood the quilter is in on a certain day. I'll try to be a bit more uniform in the future, but this is a very forgiving quilt and it seems that no matter what I do to it, it comes out Wonky and therefore anything is ok.

My friend Kaoru-san commented the other day on my Baptist fan quilting and how in Japan the same pattern is called Seikaiha. I didn't know the name of the pattern but I have seen it as a type of sashiko so I asked Kaoru-san if she'd explain about it to you.

"Hi, Tanya-san,
The wave pattern that we were talking about is called "Seikaiha" and sometimes "Seigaiha". It literally means "blue ocean waves". It was introduced to Japan from China more than 1000 years ago. The pattern depicts the waves on a calm sea and it expresses the peacefulness of the waves on the inland sea. The waves there ripple gently and endlessly and so people express their hope for eternal peace when they use this pattern."

Don't you think it interesting that a pattern has developed in two different cultures with different names and different meanings but is essentially the same?

For the rest of the afternoon I was machine quilting on the applique border and I only have to attach it to the piano cover I'm trying to make. This is a "make-as-you-go" project and I started with a large applique block that certainly wouldn't fit the piano, added two basket blocks, still too small. Added two star blocks, STILL too small and left with an odd space, added two applique bird blocks which got it the right length. Decided it was too blah so added two dark borders and now if I add borders on the sides it is going to be too long for the piano. I need to take a class in planning... The machine quilting looks nice though!

Oh! And another bit of excitment for me was that Nancy picked my name for her Laurel Burch fabrics that she was finished using! You can't believe how that put a smile on my face! I'm going to have to make something wonderful with them! Thank you again Nancy!

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

A long walk

I've been thinking about why I'm hand quilting this week and what it means to me. I am by no means saying that I think hand quilting is superior to machine quilting!! Please don't misunderstand me! In the past few months I've been enjoying machine quilting and I find it an art in itself not just a time saving technique. I'm just kind of running things through my mind, especially since I'm hand quilting this Wonky Word quilt right now.

I remember hearing a story about a missionary who lived in Central America for many years and when she was getting ready to return to America, the missions board sent out an announcement to all the churches she had ministered to that she was leaving. One day an old man arrived at her door carrying two coconuts as a thank you gift for her time with them. She was very touched by the gift but she was more concerned about the man whom she knew had had a four day walk from his village just to give her the coconuts. "Thank you so much for your gift, but what a long walk you had to have!" The old man replied, "Long walk part of gift."

This is what I thought of when I decided to hand quilt this quilt I'm making for Leiya. Hand quilting is a long process that requires months of time. But it is soothing to me, it seems to bond me to a quilt. As I do it I see the recipient in my mind's eye and I imagine how the person will react to the quilt. That's not to say that I'm sure the quilt will be absolutely adored. The person receiving it might not like the colors or the pattern or whatever. The quilt of course is the gift that I will give them, but I'm also handing them the gift of my time. Time that you can't see with your eyes. The time is part of the gift.

We quilters make quilts for people; friends, strangers, people we love, people we want to help, strangers in need. There are a lot of people who benefit from our gifts. Even machine pieced and machine quilted quilts require a set amount of time to make. This is not just true of quilting. So do knitted sweaters and socks, embroidered bags, and pillows. We could easily go the store and buy a person a blanket or a sweater. In some cases, the purchased present might be worth more monetarily, it might be more beautiful. It might be just what the person has asked for. But the handmade gift is not just the material gift. It is the gift of time too.

For that matter. Cooking a dinner instead of driving through the fast food lane is a gift of time to our families. Cleaning the house instead of letting the dust pile up is the gift of time sacrificed to our families (instead of spent in our own pursuits?) Playing a game with the kids is a gift of time. Relaxing with our spouse is a gift of time too.

I say, yeah to all of us who give our time to the people around us. It is the most valuable possession we have even if no one can see it. Next time you're making something for someone and wonder why when you have so many other things to do, remember, "Long walk part of gift."

Tuesday, May 29, 2007


Ahh dear me... Not very much to tell about today. I'm a little upset with my mother-in-law but you don't want to hear about that do you?

I've been waiting the last couple of weeks for green plums to come into the supermarkets and I found them yesterday. (I knew they were soon to appear since the plum orchard near us is full of green plums.) Plums are very important in Japan and the most popular way to eat them is the salty/sour plum that Japanese eat on white rice or in rice balls for lunch. These are called umeboshi and they take quite a lot of work to make. You wash the plums, spray them with alcohol. dry them in the sun for a few days, pack them in salt and red burdock leaves and a couple of months later you have the soft, extremely salty, extremely sour plums to eat with plain rice. I'm a so-so fan of salty plums, but the funny thing is that when I was pregnant I craved the plums just like pregnant women in the States might want dill pickles or something. Tetsu was amazed and said I'd really become a Japanese if I wanted salty plums! Once many, many years ago I tried to make some and they were a complete flop so I've never made umeboshi again.

The reason I was looking for plums though was because I do know how to make a plum syrup that Leiya absolutely loves and so in honor of her coming home I wanted to have some ready. It's easy to make but takes time to sit. Wash the plums, pack them in rock sugar and let sit in a cool place for about a month. The plums get all wrinkly and the syrup has a love exotic flavor (ever tried Japanese plum wine?) Since this for Leiya, obviously I'm not making plum wine, but most people will add liquor to the plums and sugar and let it sit for months until it becomes wine. Anyway, my plums are packed. It may not be syrup by the time Leiya gets here but at least before the end of the summer I'm hoping we can enjoy it. Once the syrup is ready I just dilute it with water to taste, make it icy cold and it is wonderfully refreshing!

Wish you could join us for a cold drink and some visiting!

Monday, May 28, 2007

Bargello quilt

Just came back from the nursery school I "teach" at and also lunch out with a friend's son. He is back after a year in the States and since his parents are in Tokyo this week I dropped by and took him out to lunch. A very nice young man whom I've known since he was around five years old and it is so fun to be able to converse with him as an adult and in English to boot!

Nothing too much going on around here so maybe I'll show you a picture of an old quilt that I put up recently in the entryway. This is my one and only Bargello quilt which I love. I have a couple books of Bargello quilts and I had planned to make more but they take quite a lot of planning and in the end this is the only one I ever made. It is from the book Bargello Quilts by Marge Edie. Mrs. Ochiai and I each made this quilt years and years ago. (Rats, no label on it. Why do I do this all the time?!" She and I shared some fabrics and made two quilts in tandem. Hers is brown and blue and mine is brown and pink. I love the way the fabric color subtly changes from brown on one side gradually to pink on the other. We made our quilts before we had really delved into the world of machine piecing so this was an experiment for us. We were so proud of ourselves and told anyone who admired the quilts that this was a quilt that could only be done by machine. (Machine piecing was taking a bashing at that time in Japan.)

Looking at my quilt and looking through the books again makes me want to make another Bargello... Not yet, Tanya!

Sunday, May 27, 2007

A beautiful morning

Yesterday was a fun day with the main event attending a concert by a well-known gospel singer, Reiko Uehara. She's held a concert in this area four years running and I've been to every one. I get completely caught up in her beautiful voice and the message she brings. Wonderful day!

This morning Choco and I took a long walk and I snapped some pictures along the way. More Japanese scenery. This is a picture about half way through our walk overlooking some of the rice fields and the river that runs through the fields. You can still see a little bit of the water between the rice shoots, but soon this whole area will be only green.

Here and there amongst the rice fields are these little patches of pink clover like flowers. I'm not sure if these are just fields that have been neglected this year or if they have been planted with wildflowers but it is very colorful and pretty.

While most of the scenery is green, I noticed that the wheat field is already turning a golden color. God's beautiful earth is ripe and full .

"Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord
And whose trust is the Lord
For he will be like a tree planted by the water,
And will not fear when the heat comes;
But its leaves will be green,
And it will not be anxious in a year of drought
Nor cease to yield fruit."
Jeremiah 17:7-8

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Quilting question

I reached another May goal yesterday. Spent the morning making another Prayer and Square quilt. I think I'll take a break from this for awhile. Thankfully there haven't been that many needs for prayer in my church (well, there is always a need for prayer, just not drastic, we need to get together and pray for this person, type of need) so I have 4 quilt flimsies stacked in my drawer to be called into use. Besides, Leiya will be here next month and the sewing room will be reconverted into her room (I've "borrowed" it for the past year) and I'll probably put the sewing machine away for awhile. That's okay, as I have quite a lot of hand quilting to do.

Speaking of hand quilting. Have any of you quilters out there ever participated in a quilting bee? Since my quilting group has the bazaar quilt at the quilting stage, for the next couple of months when we meet, we'll just be bringing our own projects to work on while we chat. If we knew how to have a quilting bee, then the six of us could gather around the quilt and work on the bazaar quilt. But all of us are hoop quilters and we twist and turn the quilt as we go and I don't think it is possible for even two of us to work on one quilt at the same time. I've read and seen pictures of Amish ladies settled around a quilt frame but I've never really seen a quilt frame in person. Is is possible to make a fold away one? (Japanese houses are too small to have a big frame out on one side of the room (or taking up the whole room!) How about quilting? I understand how you can quilt from one direction to the other in a straight line, but what about curves and feathers and leaves etc? I can't imagine quilting without turning the hoop as I go. Even hoopless, you have to turn your quilt. Do these ladies quilt using right and left hands? Use their thumb? It's a technique I would love to look into so if any of you have experience, please share!

(Yes, I know Tonya... I used your instructions to quilt hoopless but as I got towards the middle... I am a fairly good with hoop hand quilter so I decided why try to change some skill I'm good at. Thus the hoop. But all other advice has been faithfully followed!)

Friday, May 25, 2007


As reported, I had a great time yesterday with my quilting friends, Mrs. Furui, Mrs. Harada, Mrs. Ochiai, Mrs. Suga, Mrs. Yamaguchi. Don't you think it strange that I refer to them by the title Mrs. and their last name? Sometimes I do.

I've known most of these ladies for 15 years or more. (Met all of them when our kids were in kindergarten.) I consider them some of my best friends. Yet, with the exception of Mrs. Suga, I rarely call any of them by their first names and have to think even now to recall them. With other friends too, I use last names though I have one English class where both first and last names are used. I don't know why we differenciate. All of my friends, neighbors, aquaintances call me Tanya. The only reason why I can think that we call Mrs. Suga by her first name sometimes is because she has relatives she visits in the States. Seems an odd reason...

The title Mr. or Mrs. or Miss or Ms. seems so formal to me. If I were in the States, I'd be using those titles with my mother's friends! But in Japan using last names and the proper title is the norm. The term most commonly used is san. Watanabe-san. This title is used for men and women regardless of their marital status. In very formal Japanese and on printed matter the title is sama. Watanabe-sama. For children, girls have the title chan added to their first name or a nickname and boys have the title kun. I have heard the term kun used for adults too when a person is obviously of lower rank, for example a company manager might add the title kun to an office worker, male or female. Is this getting confusing?

Another interesting thing about names in Japan is that even within a family, names are not always used. The youngest child will be called by name, but all the other children will be referred to as big-brother or big sister. I had a missionary friend for whom this custom really infuriated! "The poor kids don't even have names!" But I think this custom unconsciously instills responsibility or obligation in the older children for the younger children.

I don't often hear husbands and wives referring to each other by name either. The wife will sometimes talk about her husband using only their last name without a respectful title. And maybe the most common is just to call the husband "Papa" like all the kids do. It's a big joke that husbands just call their wives "Hey!"

In my own family Tetsu and I call each other by our first names. (I'm such a bad Japanese wife I don't even put on the respectful title like I'm supposed to.) He is just Tetsu. Tetsu usually calls me by my nickname and puts a chan at the end. (Like a child?) We never adopted the custom of calling the kids by rank and they were just Takumi and Leiya. (Takumi was cheated out of the respectful title too!)

As an aside, Takumi stopped calling Tetsu, Dad, sometime at the end of elementary school. He became Tetsu-san. And a year or so later I became Tanya-san. In due course Leiya too began referring to us as Tetsu-san and Tanya-san. This causes a lot of raised eyebrows both in Japan and with my American family. "You shouldn't let your kids call you by your first name!" But Tetsu and I don't mind and I tell people at least my kids put the respectful title on at the end!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Quilting stage

Our bazaar quilt is at the quilting stage!!!

It is all in one piece and it looks great! Today six of us gathered at Mrs. Furui's house and we laid out the quilt in her tatami room and basted it down. Six pairs of hands make for fast work! Two ladies threaded basting needles and four ladies crawled around on the floor basting. Some quilts we've made we had a lot of decorative quilting to do, but this one is busy enough that we will just stitch-in-the-ditch and do a small heart within the hearts. There are 24 blocks so by our calculations, if each one of us takes the quilt for a week and quilts four blocks a week, we'll have the main part quilted by the beginning of July (such positive thinking!) We tend to put our quilts away during the summer and bring them out again in September but I think we shouldn't be too pressured this year. Mrs. Ochiai has the quilt this week. I get it next week.

What else to tell you about? Mrs. Ide came yesterday and showed us some lovely little cafe aprons she'd made from kimono fabric. So of course I decided I'd like to do that (still have some of Mrs. Yano's kimono fabric) and today she brought me some brightly colored kimono fabric to use with the drab green I have. Don't let me start another project! But doesn't this look tempting? I think I could do that without too much trouble...

It is getting hot around here and so Choco doesn't get to go riding in the car very much anymore. I feel bad leaving her in the yard alone for most of the day but she has a nice cool place to view the world. I wouldn't mind sitting in the shade and not running around like a crazy woman!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Yogurt cool

First off let me thank KDS who seems to be on a "no-reply to comments" mode for the advice about computers. I let Takumi know and we are getting my computer running better. Thank you!

I am racing around today so it must be Wednesday!

No sewing either yesterday nor today and I still need to help a friend with some translating so I just look longingly at my Wonky quilt sitting in the corner calling to me. Too bad. Maybe tomorrow.

So I guess it's a recipe again. I made this a couple of days ago and it is well received. It is one of the things Leiya wants me to make for her when she comes back to visit next month. It makes a nice summer dessert so give it a try!

Yogurt Cool

Plain yogurt -- 300 ml (1 1/4 cup).
Milk ---------200 ml (1 cup)
Cream -------200 ml (1 cup)
Gelatin ------1 or 2 tablespoons
Water -------3 tablespoons
Sugar -------40 gms (3 tablespoons)
1 can of pineapple (about 8-10 slices)
  1. Warm milk and sugar, add soaked gelatin
  2. Whip cream and add yogurt
  3. Add milk, sugar and gelatin mixture
  4. Add 3 tablespoons pineapple syrup
  5. Add cut-up pineapple
  6. Stir and refrigerate 2 hours or more
In a pinch I've used canned mandarin oranges but pineapple is better.

I know that recipes are a pain to do when they come from other countries. In thirty years of cooking, I've had very few recipies that I've been able to adapt from American recipe books. Just can't get the ingredients. Lots of American recipes in magazines etc. call for instant or packaged things and so I have a lot of trouble cooking from American recipes.

In Japan everyone uses scales and weighs their ingredients and I find this a pain too. Just use a measuring cup! But Japanese and American measuring cups actually hold different amounts (the Japanese holds less). So... most of my recipes are a bit iffy. If you have more yogurt, throw it in. If you don't have enough cream, well a bit off won't hurt. If you like it sweeter, add the sugar.

Hope this suits your taste buds!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

High school prom

I have been having so much fun getting e-mails from Leiya and her family in the States! For any of you American bloggers, you may think, "what's the big deal?", but for my Japanese family and friends we all say "Wow! What an experience!"

Leiya went to her high school prom! The reason that is so exciting is because there is no such thing in Japan. Boys and girls and not supposed to do things together (on the sly they do of course) and the school and society frowns on high school dating. Unless you become a movie or TV star, not many girls in Japan will ever have a chance to get dressed up in a long dress, go to a dance, have dinner at a fancy restaurant and stay out all night! Especially not a high school student!

Leiya and Bessie (I don't want to use the phrase host mother) have been keeping us informed with e-mails and pictures about the preparation for the prom and the details. Such fun! Such fun to see Leiya so excited and happy! Going shopping, getting her hair done, planning things with her friends. She worries about spending too much money but it is worth it toTetsu and me just knowing that she is having these experiences.

It is funny, since I don't really recall being all that excited about my own high school prom experience. It was the first time I ever wore make-up, the first time to stay out all night, but besides that... But living it vicariously through Leiya has been so much fun! She tells us about her reasons for the choice of dress, about her hair style, about dinner and dancing, about her friends. To be so young and exuberant!

I'd love to show you lots of pictures of Leiya and her friends, but I think I have to ask permission so here is a small one of Leiya and one of the limousine. Limousine! Wow!
I think Leiya looks very beautiful! Tetsu agrees and is happy for her... but he likes her being a little girl better (don't all fathers?) Too adult looking for him! The high school girl who comes for English was very envious when she saw the pictures. Mrs. Yano predicted Tetsu would be upset seeing the low-cut dress. (He wasn't.). Most of my friends are amazed and realize once again how different Japanese and American cultures are. All of us are so happy for Leiya!

Good for you Leiya! I'm so glad you had a good time! Thank you Bessie and Scott for letting her have this experience!

Monday, May 21, 2007

My least favorite room

I'm not really complaining today, but I'm going to tell you about my least favorite room in my house. This is my kitchen. I'm almost embarrassed to show it to you it is such a nothing kitchen. It's only redeeming feature is that it has a nice window that you can look out of onto the forest, but even that is a frosted window so when it is closed you can not see out. I keep it open as much as possible from spring on.

I love the house we live in and it fits me to a T. All except for the kitchen, or maybe the kitchen fits me to a T too and that's why I don't like it. The interior decorating is... vintage stainless steel. The sink is the only built in feature in the whole kitchen. It has no oven, no stove, no cupboards, no dishwasher, no ice makers, no disposal, NO COUNTERS!!! I have to chop vegetables on that little space to the right of the sink and the dish drainer goes on the left. You can imagine what the kitchen looks like when cooking is in process. Pots and dishes in the sink, on the floor, balanced on top of each other. The stove is a two burner gas unit that we bought at a local hardware shop. The oven is an electric one I've had for nearly 30 years and the only place I could find for it is under the sink. It bakes 9 cookies at a time. Across from the sink is a sideboard for dishes and a place for a rice cooker and microwave.

A few years ago, an American friend and her sister were visiting and I complained about my kitchen. At the time the microwave was set in front of the stove and I was literally edging between the two in order to reach over the garbage pail to do the cooking. It's a good thing I've never been pregnant while living in this house or we wouldn't have had dinner for the final six months! I was teaching English the evening my friends were visiting, and suddenly I hear all this scraping and bumping coming from the kitchen! What were they doing but moving the whole kitchen around, refrigerator and all! I've always been more pleased with this layout than the previous one but still....

Many Japanese homes do have fancier kitchens and nowadays you can build a house with a "system kitchen" which means it has all the modern features and the kitchen will surround you with conveniences. I tell people that the reason I'm such a lousy cook and hate cooking is because I'm stuck with this kitchen but I doubt that I'd be a better cook if I had a fancy kitchen. It's a good excuse though!

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Oya rock

Some of you nice people write comments saying that you've enjoy reading my blog because I occasionally give glimpses of Japanese life and that it opens up your world. Well, since I started blogging I've found that I've opened up my own world. I do normal things and find myself thinking, "that's something that someone might find interesting." Or "isn't that pretty. I ought to share a picture of that." Yesterday we drove by a place we drive by nearly once a week and since I had the camera I asked Tetsu to stop the car so I could take some pictures. Scenery I've seen hundreds of times, but yesterday it looked different to me.

This is along the road we use when we go to Tetsu's mother's place. The area is called Oya and it is very famous because of the oya rock quarry there. Oya rock is a soft volcanic stone that is quite expensive in other parts of Japan but here it lies along the roadside. It is good for making walls and cobblestones, and has a light green color that I've read in time deepens in intensity. Artists enjoy carving the stones into beautiful objects.

The rock quarry is huge and quite a few years ago I remember that a whole farming area in the oya district suddenly collapsed because the land had so much rock mined from under it. The quarry hasn't been mined for many years now and instead it has been turned into a museum, an event hall and a chapel. The unique atmosphere in the underground quarry is quite mysterious and the acoustics attract musical artists.

This last picture I'm afraid, I didn't take myself, I checked out the Oya website and found it, but I've been down in the quarry before and this is really how it looks. It is always quite cold in it and voices echo off the walls and from the ceilings that are invisible in the darkness above.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Cutting fabric

I'm off and running around with Tetsu today so this post is short.

What have I been doing?

A nice long walk with Choco yesterday. We practically stepped on a huge snake and I thought "Hmmm. I wonder if I should go get my camera and take a picture and post it." Decided that it would scare you all to pieces and no one would ever visit again! Besides, on our way back from the walk the snake was gone. But we do get a lot of snakes around here.

Mostly I've been quilting the Wonky Word quilt. That's fun, and since it is wonky to begin with, I'm not worrying about the length of my stitches nor if I miss a stitch on the back etc. No quilt police are going to see it (but Mrs. Furui and friends may raise an eyebrow.) I figure if I quilt 6 fans a day then I'll have it quilted by the end of July.

I have so much fun quilting that I've ignored all my other goals for this month. No work on the applique, no work on the prayer and square quilt, no work on the feathered star block (that was a hidden goal). I really must focus myself on those next week. Hopeful thoughts.

And as reported before, I've started another project which is the 365 Challenge. So far just cutting the fabrics and I love the colors but don't know how this is going to work with writing. As Atet pointed out, no one says the blocks have to be beige or white and even paper comes in many colors. So, here are my blocks! Colorful to say the least!

But I had soooo much trouble cutting the fabric because of aforementioned "lack of brain for mathematics". Really pitiful how much fabric I cut wrong. I'll use it for a crumb quilt someday. (Hah!) And I'm not starting this quilt for another month because I want to begin on my 52 birthday. So, these blocks are all put away in plastic bags and are waiting for me. (I hope I don't forget where I put the bags.)

Friday, May 18, 2007

Computer help needed again

Does anyone know why my comment button might have disappeared? I didn't touch anything. Just posted the blog today and noticed the button is gone. I went to moderate comments and made sure that "anyone can comment" is checked. No button. Oh no...

Oops. It's back for this post. I DO NOT UNDERSTAND BLOGGER!

Futon and laundry

It is a sunny day for a change so I'm being housewifely and washing the mountain of clothes and doing other pertinent duties that should be done on a sunny day. Boring.

Do I really want to post this picture? I mean, I may be taking things a bit too far in describing Japanese culture. How many people would show their laundry and bedding? But I guess, if I can tell you about toilets, I can tell you about bedding.

Today, homemakers all over Japan are taking advantage of the nice day by hanging their bedding over fences, veranda rails; in the case of the farmers, over bushes and even parked cars. Grab all the sun you can get! Most everybody has futon which are heavy cotton mats that can be taken up off the floor every morning and put in their special closets, except for on the really sunny, breezy days when the futon will be aired. Airing the futon makes them somewhat fluffy again and rids them off any germs or bacteria (I guess) so conscientious housewives try to do this as often as possible. I'm not so fastidious but I did drag my futon over the veranda today.

When Tetsu and I were engaged, we prepared for life together by purchasing the things a new couple might need and one of the things was futon. I could not believe that he expected us to sleep in separate futons like the rest of Japan. Unheard of! We must have a double futon! Don't all married couples sleep in double beds in the States? So, though my mother-in-law thought it was an odd thing to do, she helped me order a double futon. This is one of the things that, as a foreigner I thought was a must, which turned out to be a flop. (There are quite a few more on my list.) A double futon is heavy!!!! You cannot pick it up! A double futon does not fit in the special closet!!! You have to manuver and twist youself until you slip a disc! You can't buy sheets for a double futon!!! You have to have your mother send you double flat sheets from the States! Suffice it to say, that once our double futon was tired and flat we purchased normal single futons and have lived happily ever after.

You'll notice the laundry hanging up there too. I do hang out the laundry daily because although I have a clothes dryer I haven't used it in over a year and right now it is my storage place for cat food. I don't know why, but people don't really use dryers on a regular basis around here. In a pinch they are nice for drying something but they are considered uneconomical and energy consumptive so everyone hangs their laundry outside. During the rainy season this is a problem and my dryer may get used once or during those months but basically, everything gets put outside in the morning and taken in in the evening.

Now having said that I hope it doesn't suddenly rain on me this evening and then I'll have a problem!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Paper cranes

Yesterday when I went to the kindergarten, one of the teachers asked me if I would like to fold an origami crane and say a prayer for one of the little boys who is in the hospital and isn't doing very well. The prayers are understandable, but here is the reason behind the crane. This is a simple story that I related to some American children many years ago, thus the very simple English. It is a true story that is a little bit sad, but it is a good story.

There was once a little girl named Sadako who lived many years ago during the Second World War. An atomic bomb was dropped on Sadako’s city and many people were hurt and many people were killed. Sadoko was fine but one day she became sick and had to go the hospital. The doctors said she was sick because of the atomic bomb. Sadako decided that she would fold paper cranes while she was in the hospital and for every crane that she folded, she would pray that there would be peace in the world. Sadako also hoped that if she could make one thousand cranes maybe she would become well. Sadly, Sadako died before she finished making her one thousand cranes. Sadako’s friends and family decided that they would make paper cranes in her memory and continue to pray Sadako’s prayer.

Nowadays, in Japan, people often make paper cranes when someone is sick, or if they want something very badly. And although Sadako died, there is now a statue of her in the city of Hiroshima, and everyday school children from all over Japan send thousands and thousands of paper cranes to be hung around the statue. Japanese school children remember Sadako and her prayer for peace in the world.Lord, be with Tomoya-kun and his family today. Give him strength and comfort. Thank you for his life. Your will be done. Amen

Wednesday, May 16, 2007


Today I took some pictures of the neighborhood kids going off to school. In our area, the children are divided into groups and they walk together to school with the older children being the leaders. The parents are requested to not take their children to school nor pick them up by car. There aren't any public school buses either so the kids have to use the public bus system if they live far away, or they walk. Some kids walk quite long distances! From our neighborhood it is about a 15 minute walk.

All children in Japan start school in April when they are 6 years old. And each child carries a bookbag called a randoseru which I think is actually a Dutch word. The bookbags are all the same shape and until 10 years ago or so, only came in two colors. Red for girls, black for boys.

A randoseru is quite an expensive item but it is a big event for the up-coming first grader to be presented with a randoseru and start preparing for the educational world. The bookbags are made of heavy, waterproof leather and have two or three pockets for books and papers. I've heard that it is possible to buy one for as little as $100 but most parents figure that since the child will be using it for 6 years, that a more expensive randoseru is worth the cost. Often, grandparents, who wish to buy the new scholar something in celebration, will foot the bill for a randoseru (and a study desk!) and will pay as much as $1000 for a nice one. On the surface, I can't really see the difference in the price but I suppose the more expensive ones stand up better under wear. Most families will pay around $500.

First graders are given yellow randoseru covers from the school and that makes them more visible and are considered a safety feature. That's also why all the kids wear yellow hats. The girls have berets, the boys have caps. Nowadays randoseru come in a rainbow of colors; at least I've seen colorful ones in the department store. But in our area I only see children carrying either red, black or an occasional navy blue. The orange and green and purple ones haven't been accepted in our little country town yet it seems!

When my kids were starting school, randosel still were mainly the black and red but there was one girl in the school who had a pink one. What a stir that caused! Everyone in the whole district knew who she was! When Leiya entered first grade I tried to steer her towards a brown or navy blue one. I mean, even women will carry brown handbags. I guess I don't really like the "everybody has to be the same" concept in Japan, and I thought she might want to show a little individuality. No way! She had to have that red one! (It irked me a bit that I was buying handbags for myself at $20 and here I was buying my kids bookbags that cost close to $500!)

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Three Colored Rice Bowl

Ok. I've got a busy day today again but how about a recipe?

This is called "Three Colored Rice Bowl"

150gms. ground beef, pork, chicken etc.
2 eggs
10-12 snow peas
sugar, soy sauce, salt and oil

  • De-string snow peas and boil lightly in salt water
  • Mix eggs with sugar (to taste. Sweet is very nice) and scramble
  • Remove eggs from fry pan and add meat, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 1 tablespoon sugar and 1 tablespoon water. Simmer until liquid boils down
  • Serve rice in a bowl with peas, eggs and meat poured over. (If you have red ginger to add as an extra spot of color it is very nice but we don't like red ginger.)
My side dish was fish cakes and taro potatoes.

How do you like my chopsticks? A few years ago I decided that my meals may not be very tasty but I could still make dinner enjoyable with fun chopsticks. These really are chopsticks, not colored pencils, but everyone is always surprised to see them on my kitchen table.

What colors do you want to eat with today?

Monday, May 14, 2007

A Crazy...

Ok, I am back. This morning with the computer crashing, I kind of wondered what I should do about keeping everyone's blog addresses and e-mail addresses handy and off the computer so that would still be able to contact you all again. I mean, if the computer goes, with all my favorites etc. then I am a lost ice berg slowly melting in a sea of computer jumble! Just write everything in a handy notebook? (Flylady: Control journal) What do you do?

Since this started out as a crazy sort of day I'm going to tell you about myself. I was tagged a couple of weeks ago by Connie and by Teodo to write seven things you don't know about me but although some of my idiosyncrasies are humorous or interesting, others are scary to me and I worry that you'll think I'm a real nut case.

In no particular order:
  • I have a phobia of animals. How can this be? She has 4 cats and a dog! What I mean is that I can not stand to think of an animal in distress so I am afraid of empty cardboard boxes by the roadside (could be a box of kittens or puppies). I refuse to go down streets for at least two weeks if I've spotted a stray animal. I can not read or watch movies or TV programs about animals. I refuse to go into a pet shop, zoo or circus.
  • I was a fairly good chess player as a child and won a chess championship but now when I start a chess game I get heart palpitations.
  • I played the organ and pipe organ until I was in college yet I cannot read music nor play the piano nor have played for over 30 years.
  • I try to get into bed by 9:30 every night. (My husband thinks this is a serious idiosyncrasy!)
  • I have absolutely no brain for numbers. I cannot remember times, dates, prices, measurements etc. They can be way off the wall and I won't notice. (I'm very good at remembering names though).
  • I dislike love stories.
  • As a child my family traveled during the summers and I've been mistaken as being Mexican, Italian, Eskimo, Malaysian, Thai, Filipino, and Hawaiian. A regular chameleon! In Japan, although the Japanese recognize me as being foreign, the foreigners I speak to always think I'm a Japanese wanting to practice my English. "You speak very good English my dear."
Anyone else who would like to join in the Seven Things You Don't Know About Me game... Consider yourself Tagged!

Rescued by my son!

My wonderful son just spent 45 minutes with me doing "chat" and helping me get my blogger funcitioning again! Hugs and kisses, hugs and kisses Takumi! Thank you! If it were not for him my friends you might not have heard from me for months or ever again! Scary thought!

The computer was falling apart this morning and Tetsu and I tried recovering things and restarting and of course we know nothing. Takumi happened to get on the computer in California at the same time and we managed to keep connected enough to communicate. He patiently explained how to catch and save the whole screen and send it to him so he could see the problem. (I wasn't doing a very good job of explaining things to him.) I couldn't even understand the logo!

But he saved me! I'm back and playing on the computer. Thank you Lord for putting Takumi on the computer this morning! Thank you again Takumi!

Ahh, Blogger won't let me upload a picture so maybe not all is right yet, but that may just be Blogger being tempermental.

Ok friends. I've got to go to work today, I'll post something more interesting (I hope) later.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Oh Happy Day!

Good Morning! This is how Tetsu and I had coffee this morning. A simple way to start the day happy.

Yesterday was very productive. ...but not in the way of quilting. It was a sunny day so what did we do? Moved all the downstairs furniture outside and waxed the floors! Yeah! This is a once a year project for me and it really makes a difference. We took up carpets and had everything that wasn't nailed down outside. I bet our neighbors thought we were moving! The floor is nice and shiney and everything smells fresh and clean but it won't stay that way for long I'm sure. Dog and cat fur, nail scratches, drinking water spots and worse! Ah well, it feels good today to see the shine!

After that bust of energy and a quick lunch Tetsu hit the fields and planted vegetables. He is a farmer 101 and he thinks digging a hole and putting a plant in will work miracles. Mr. Yano has a field and last year and this year he is letting Tetsu use a couple rows of it. So... Tetsu planted eggplant , mini-tomatos, moroheiya (a type of greens), cucumber, sweet pepper, pumpkin, watermelon and corn. (Three plants each.) Mr. Yano saw him digging and came out and advised Tetsu to replant some things that were too close together. Hmmm... I wonder what we'll be eating this summer.

And then I made a wreath for my front door. Not too artistic but again bright and cheery and maybe welcoming to people who see it.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Projects and plans

Well finally! She's doing something crafty!

I do put in a bit of sewing time daily but not enough to write about. Cutting up scraps, a little applique, quilting. I have to remember that I've set monthly goals! Here are the things I'm working on right now.

Ok Nadine and Connie! You caught me! As you can see, I guess I've started a new project. What is it? The 365 Day Challenge! No, I haven't made any plans past this. I've still got over a month (before the starting date I've set) to think about it, but I guess if I'm cutting out blocks this size already then that means I'm going to do it, right? Can't let this fabric go to waste! This is as far as my light colored scraps got me. Obviously I'm going to have to go buy more fabric. I guess this is going to be colorful because I'm working with what I've got so far and I don't have much in the way of beige, white or cream. Advice, advice! You're going to have to help me with this my friends!

Then I finished the applique border thingy that I think I'm making for the piano. But it isn't big enough so I'm making more blocks to expand the length. I'm playing this by ear and the first two blocks are baskets.

What has been the most fun is the quilting on the Wonky Word quilt! I decided to do the Baptist Fans and hand quilt a few every day. Still, this is going to be a long process! I'm using some varigated thread which is very nice and I love the way it shows on the colorful quilt. Usually when I quilt I try to keep my stitches pretty small but with this varigated thread, it comes up a different color every few stitches and I naturally seem to be quilting with longer stitches. Even the back comes out nicely! I stop to admire it so often that I don't get too much done!

Friday, May 11, 2007

Traffic Safety

This morning I've been out at a major intersection wearing a banner, handing out pamphlets and reflectors and smiling at people who are passing by in cars. I do this twice a year because I am an official Traffic and Safety officer. Sounds impressive doesn't it? It's not.

As a member of a neighborhood in Japan, (as a member of the society!) we are "encouraged" to play a role in the politics of the neighborhood. Lots and lots of positions. Health and Sports committee, Environment and Sanitary committee, Women's committee, Community Center committee. There are lots more. I was asked to be on the Traffic Safety committee and I get to represent our neighborhood at different events. This week is traffic saftey week in Japan and to show support we were asked to meet at the corner of the intersection at 7:30 this morning and give out pamphlets to cars that stopped at the light. There must have been 10 of us ladies (I was the youngest) and another 10 older men, plus 4 or 5 police officers. The men have very official looking yellow jackets and cloth police hats. We ladies are required to wear our banners that proclaim TRAFFIC SAFETY. The drivers do not seem very happy about having to roll down their windows and receive the pamphlets but most of them comply. I smile a lot and tell them to drive carefully. I have no idea if this really has any effect on traffic safety. Personally, I don't think it is a very necessary activity. No one reads the pamphlets (they are handed out everywhere anyways and are more related to police activity anyway, sort of a wanted poster). Maybe if someone official looking was there daily the drivers might be more careful when coming to the intersection but twice a year for one hour? When we finish we are given a bag of goodies to thank us for our time but it seems a waste of tax payers' money.

Tetsu took my picture this morning and commented that when I was younger I wouldn't have been caught dead standing on the street and being so visible but this is the third year I've done this and I guess as I get older I do want to show that I am trying to cooperate with the group concept. I'll do this again in the autumn but for the rest of the year there isn't much else to do except write up a report on what I did (nothing). I'll try not to eat all my goodies today.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Shoes and flip-flops

Yesterday I was at the Mifumi Kindergaarten again for English and I thought I'd show you a little about Japanese customs there.

Of course everyone knows that the Japanese take off their shoes when entering their homes but did you know that everyone also takes off their shoes when going into the schools and kindergartens? Of course anywhere that there are tatami mat rooms like temples and shrines shoes are required to be removed and up until recently, we even took off our shoes when we entered churches.

At the entrance to the kindergarten (or schools) there is always a large area for shoes to be taken off and for those shoes to be put away in cubby holes. You can imagine the confusion there would be if a hundred children left their shoes here and there at the entrance to a building so each child has his own cubby hole. The cubby is just large enough for a pair of shoes, and during the day while the children are in the building they will wear indoor shoes, simple sneakers. The indoor shoes are all alike so the mothers decorate them with pictures so the kids can tell their shoes from everyone elses'. The shoe changing area is swept daily, in schools by the children, at the kindergarten by the teachers, so it stays clean and sand free.

In the case of Mifumi, the children are encouraged to go barefoot indoors (even in the dead of winter! Builds up stamina!) and when they play in the kindergarten yard they all wear zori, straw flip-flops. Boys have blue, girls have red and even the teachers play outdoors with the kids in flip-flops. (You cannot imagine all the excitement I caused yesterday when I asked a couple of kids to let me take pictures of their zori.! "Take my picture! Take mine!" I ended up taking pictures of barefeet and sneakers, too, but I guess you can see kids' feet anywhere so I'm not posting those!)

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

My broken alarm clock

Tetsu and I like to wake up at 6:00 in the morning. Usually at 5:45 I wake up to the sound of Choco whining which quickly escalates into barking. Often when I peel my eyes open, a cat will be nose to nose with me waiting patiently for me to get up. Choco isn't so patient. She will not give us that last 15 minutes to sleep! We have tried putting her in the house, darkening her cage etc. but her inner clock tells her it is time the family was up. (Or do the cats let her know?)

Choco is an indoor dog at night and an outdoor dog during the day, at least during the fall and winter. I feel sorry for her out in the cold at night so she has a nice large, blanketed cage that she sleeps in in the living room. The reason Choco is an outdoor dog during the day is because she is not a particularly friendly dog. I don't trust her with the cats and also, she absolutely hates children. This has been a major problem since I teach English in my home and I have loads of kids coming in and out of the house all the time. (Our old dog barely opened a sleeping eye when someone came in the room). So, Choco stays chained up in the yard during the day and I bring her in when I've finished teaching for the evening.

Depending on the day of the week, my schedule differs and some days I'm finished teaching at 5:30, sometimes at 9:00. Everyday, Choco barks at the people who come and go and she naps while she waits for English to be over. And everyday she lets me know when she thinks it is time to be let in. Always 10 to 15 minutes before the class is over! If it is Monday night and I have a student who will be finished at 7:30 Choco will start barking and whining at around 7:15. If my last class ends at 6:00 on another day, she will start her act at around 5:45. It doesn't matter if on Friday I teach two classes, one from 6:30 to 7:30 and another from 8:00 to 9:00, she won't start making noise at the end of the earlier class. She waits until about 15 minutes before 9:00. My alarm clock. And broken at that since she will never wait those last 15 minutes!

Doesn't she sound like a smart dog? Then why doesn't she learn to heel and come?!