Friday, November 30, 2007


I'm off and about again but I thought I'd show you some persimmons that were hanging at the kindergarten this week. They have a couple of persimmon trees on the grounds but the trees only produce fruit every other year so I'm not sure if these are home grown persimmons or store bought.

There are various types of persimmons in Japan, some round, some a little flatter and some slightly pointy. The trees lose their leaves quickly in the fall and all that is left are the orange fruit against the very black bark of the tree branches and trunk. I always imagine hundreds of little jack o'lanterns when I see the combination of black and orange together. The flatter persimmons and the round ones make for very good eating right away and also make up into a very nice cake (use the same recipe for apple cake but add ripe persimmons.) However the pointy persimmons are very astringent and can pucker up your whole body at the first bite. I had never eaten persimmons when I lived in the States and didn't even know what people meant when they told me that a certain persimmon would be too astringent to eat. I sure learned when I bit into it! It's a completely different attack on the taste buds that's different from sour! But these astringent persimmons make up into delicious dried persimmons and so at this time of year many people gather persimmons from their trees, peel them and then hang them up in the cold air for a few weeks to dry. They turn into ugly brown things but are soft and for some reason the drying and the frosty air makes them sweet. Magic! People are beginning to dry persimmons around here and they will be ready for eating around New Year's Day.

I have seen pictures of farm houses with screens of persimmons hanging near the windows (they have to be quickly pulled indoors when it rains) and it is a beautiful site with the little knobs of orange hanging from the farmhouse eaves to the ground. Even so, I thought these little double hanging persimmons looked very Japanese. On one string, two persimmons are tied together and hung over a rod right outside the kindergarten classrooms. Probably the kids will be able to take these home at the end of the year and share them with their families. I have tried to make dried persimmons but have forgotten them out in the rain and made a mess instead of a taste treat. Maybe some kind child will give me a bite of his this year...

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Friends' creations

I certainly think I need help with organizing myself and getting my time scheduled in a better way. Some of you are so good about getting things done, quilting, cooking, running the kids around, holding down a job, blogging. I've been busy but don't really have anything to show for it. I hate it when I ask my students what they've done this week and they can't remember. "What! All that time you've been given and you don't know what you did with it!?" But that's sort of how it's been with me this week. Where did the time go? What have I been doing? I know what I haven't been doing. SEWING! Most of my day seems to be filled with errands and chores...

Well, I didn't do much sewing today either and today was a patchwork day! I went in to Utsunomiya (the next town over where my patchwork friends live) and we discussed next year's bazaar quilt. I guess we're making another one! I had brought in a few pictures of quilts I liked from books and blogs and we made some simple decisions. The rest of the time was spent chatting, eating and admiring each other's work (if we'd brought any). So even though I spent four hours with my friends I only sewed a few strips on the When-oh-When quilt but I did take pictures of things that my friends are making.

This is Mrs. Ochiai's quilt. She is in the final quilting stages and she is bound and determined to finish it by the end of the year. She's been working on this for quite awhile and the flower blocks have been maturing in her closet for a few years. I threw out the challenge to her earlier this year to put stems on each block every month and she finished that step quickly and is already thinking about binding! This quilt is going on her daughter's bed.

And these next two quilts are actually the same Wicked Easy quilt I raved about how easy it was so Mrs. Harada and Mrs.Furui decided to make their own versions! Isn't this an interesting pattern that such different quilts can result? Mrs. Harada is still quilting the greenish one and Mrs. Furui is finished with her pink one and will send it off to the recipient this week.

One lady, Mrs. Yamaguchi was making a thimble while she chatted, so I took pictures of that process. In Japan traditionally ladies use a leather thimble on the middle section of their middle finger and Mrs. Yamaguchi was sewing a piece of leather together to become her new thimble. She says this is the best way to have a thimble that fits the finger perfectly which makes sense. I still prefer using the metal thimble on the tip of the finger so I don't think I'll make this but it was interesting to watch her sew with it.

And this is Mrs. Furui's latest creation, a needle holder. I've mentioned before that Mrs. Furui loves embroidery. (In one post I said embroidery was Mrs. Furui's first love but she pulled me aside later and corrected me on that. Let it be known that she loves patchwork no less than embroidery!) She has been making quite a few different embroidery patterns for little felt needle booklets, but I fell in love with this hedgehog! I want one!!! I hinted very strongly that I would love to be the owner of the next hedgehog she decides to make so I'll let you know if she ever takes the hint!

Sigh... I wish I could show you something of my own making but alas I'm still doing errands and chores...

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Penny pinching

This may not be an interesting post but I thought I'd show you some of the "presents" we have around the house and once again prove to you that I do not understand Japanese culture.

All of these boxes have come from funerals or memorial services in the past few weeks. My goodness, Tanya must know a lot of people who have died! Well, that's not really true. Tetsu works for a convalescent home and he must go to various funerals during the year. The custom in Japan is when there is a funeral is that all the mourners will arrive with envelopes of money and in return they are given a bag that usually has a small bottle of sake (Japanese alcohol), a box of tea or seaweed and a small packet of salt. The salt is for purification and once arriving home after the service, the packet will be opened and the salt tossed around so that evil spirits won't follow you into the house. (This is my rough critique). The sake must have some purification meaning too and I find it handy to use in my cooking. I don't know why tea and seaweed play an important part of the gift giving.

Here's where I'm going to show my miserly side. Forgive me. When Tetsu brought back his bag of things a couple of weeks ago, I asked him if he was taking it back to the office since the person who had passed on wasn't a personal acquaintance. No. He had enclosed money from himself, not from the convalescent home. I did not say but thought,

"What! You have to give $50 to $100 every time you go to one of the convalescent home funerals? What is this going to do to our budget?"

Actually, this is an old situation and I've learned not to ask. It just makes me grumble. (I remember someone telling me in my early days of marriage that there were some things that it was just better not to ask about. I can think of numerous situations in my marriage that I knew if I delved into it further it could result in a major battle.) I do not need to know how much money Tetsu uses for "funeral expense." Anyway, Tetsu has gone to a couple of funerals this month.

This weekend we were invited to a memorial service for someone who had passed away last December. Of course there had been a funeral then and of course we followed the customs of giving money. I am not grumbling about that! This is the way it is done in Japan and we budget accordingly. For the memorial service the Buddhist priest attends and the altar is displayed much like it had been last year. After all the chanting, the family and friends are invited to a luncheon in honor of the person who has passed on. But of course, invited means that more money is enclosed and more presents are given. I politely bowed out of this service though the family repeatedly asked both Tetsu and me to attend. I really didn't think we could afford both of us going to the luncheon! As it was, Tetsu was checking the Internet about the proper amount of money to enclose for the memorial service and made a decision (we are not family or long time friends, close neighbor friends) about the amount. On top of that Tetsu really didn't really want to go at all. He wouldn't know many of the people attending, a lot of drinking is involved and Tetsu doesn't drink, Tetsu isn't very good at chit-chatting. But of course one of us had to attend and I was adamant that it wasn't going to be me.

To make a long story short Tetsu came back with his bag and was bemoaning the fact that he really should have enclosed more money. It was a very elaborate affair with a huge feast provided and of course a very large box as a gift.

"I shouldn't have been so stingy."

"Tetsu, this is ridiculous! If you don't go you insult the family. If you do go then it's painful on the pocketbook. Realistically, there are other things we need to spend our money on. And besides, if you're going to go at all, you should have gone with a loving heart."

"Then YOU should have gone!"

I think maybe except for the immediate family, a lot of social obligation goes along with this custom. Who except the Buddhist priest and the restaurant won in this situation? The family had to arrange a luncheon and gifts for 30 or more people and according to Tetsu it must have cost a wallop. The people going enclosed very large amounts of money. If any of them are like us, it is not really an amount they can afford. But I suppose the immediate family was happy that so many people attended and remembered the deceased in a rather joyful way instead of with all the tears that were abundant last year.

For the rest of the year you can be sure I'll be pinching pennies! Or pinching yen!

Monday, November 26, 2007


Christmas lights are up both at the church and at our house. A couple of bright spots of color (aside from the convenience store lights) in the countryside.

Tetsu was just upstairs changing light bulbs for me and as a scrambled around in TWO rooms picking up patchwork blocks from the floor he said "No, go right ahead and leave them there. These are your rooms to use as you please. It doesn't matter that we can't walk in anymore. I'm a very understanding husband." He was not being sarcastic. He likes the downstairs picked up but he doesn't go upstairs much more than to sleep. Even so, it made me feel guilty and I really will clean the upstairs today! That means very little sewing again. If I could just get the When-oh-When quilt to flimsy stage it could come off the floor and either get packed away or brought downstairs to quilt or put under the sewing machine foot (haven't decided how I'm going to quilt it yet). Course the same could be said about the Wonky quilt. There are hearts and word blocks and animals all over the floor in the other room too. It's not that I use the rooms so much, just that each quilt seems to demand it's own room or at least a wall or a floor.

So here is a picture of the When-oh-When this morning. I'll pick it up and vacuum and then may put it back down.

And can you believe, this weekend I was putting the mini borders on the weeks of my 365 Challenge quilt and thought "hmmm. Something's funny...Wait a minute, it's not October, it's November!" For the whole dang month I've been writing 10/xx on these blocks! You would think I would notice before this late date! I am losing it.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Advice please!

I just had a scary experience. It took me 30 minutes to get into my blog to create a post and Blogger kept telling me I didn't have an account, there was no valid user name, they didn't have my password etc. I have no idea how I got into it now. After numerous attempts I just seemed to slip in but I don't know why.

Any advice? My first thought was "how am I going to let blogger friends know that I'm here but can't post?" Comment on my own blog? I think I could still do that. How would I get in contact with someone who would know how to put things right? Scary, scary.... Anyone ever had a similar experience? Is there some way to detour around the signing in? I usually just bookmark myself to the create page so that I don't do the signing in part and it had been so long since I'd signed in that I'd even forgotten how but I had all the information written down in a notebook so I knew I wasn't making a mistake.

Maybe I need to get another account, put myself down as a new member and then have two ways to get in. If anyone has any advice please let me know! And if you don't hear from me again know that I'm sobbing away in front of my computer!

Well. That wasn't how I'd planned to start this post today. I was going to tell you about going to Tetsu's convalescent home this week. They were having a family day and were displaying some of the things that the residents and care workers had made. For some reason Tetsu thought it would be a good idea to display some of my quilts so he had pinned those up on the walls. I came just to be supportive and see what some of the older people had made. I'm sure that most of the crafts had been given a lot of "help" by the care workers at the convalescent home since not too many of the residents have much understanding nor dexterity but still, the hall was very bright and cheerful.

Look at all these origami balls that were hanging along the hallway! I've tried doing these and they are really quite difficult and I was amazed at all the different shapes and types that could be found. One of the care workers must be a professional at making these or else she really likes origami!

And look at this set. Can you tell that these balls were made of newspaper advertisement paper? Very clever. And then there was this very bright and cheerful "vase" of origami lilies! This looked like it might have been an joint effort. Even the vase part had been made of painted newspaper rolled up in long, tight strips, woven together and then painted so that it looked like basketwork.

And the big event of the day was marshmallow bobbing. This is a take off on apple bobbing and instead of apples and a tub of water they were using marshmallows in a box of flour. The "fun" part was that the participant's face gets pushed into the flour as deeply as possible and they come up looking like a ghost! I was invited to participate so here I am completely covered in flour! I had flour in my ears and up my nose and even in the evening I was still sort of white and flaky. (Maybe I'm always flaky.)

Here's to hoping I can blog again tomorrow... If you don't here from me, check back at the comments in a few days. Keeping my fingers crossed...

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Tamozawa Goyoutei

I wanted to show these pictures of the beautiful Tamozawa Emperor's Garden today. After the tea ceremony I wandered around the gardens (and was late for my next appointment!) but it was lovely with the autumn colors. I had to forgo the tour of the residence itself (I only saw a corner of it at the tea ceremony) but the pamphlet I picked up said it has 106 rooms in it. I can imagine the royal family gazing out over the garden while flurries of servants hover around.This is the front entrance and a tour group had just pulled up. Everyone is taking off their shoes as they go in.
Here is a view of the roof arch all made of wood.
The maple trees were gorgeous! I think the cold air makes the colors vibrant. It was really cold!Here is the side view of one of the rooms. I see this wing has glass in the windows. There is an outer walkway all around the room and also an inner walkway between the windows and the paper doors.Looking back at the residence from the gardens.
The beautiful pond was fed by a small stream that meandered through the gardens with stepping stones here and there. The outdoor paths were set with wooden logs and gravel which matched the setting beautifully.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Tea Ceremony

I had a very interesting day up in Nikko Wednesday when I was invited to attend an ocha kai. Ocha means tea and kai means gathering so in this case ocha kai means a tea ceremony where tea is performed and served to guests. The tea ceremony was being given by some of the kindergarten mothers (who are studying tea ceremony) for the oldest class of kindergarten students! Not only that, the tea ceremony hall that they were using was in Tamozawa Goyoutei, the summer residence of Japan's former emperors. (Now donated to Nikko, City). Why, oh, why anyone would want to take thirty kindergarten children to this very beautiful, valuable and quiet historical building I don't know and apparently some of the mothers were of the same opinion! But the kindergarten principal strongly encouraged the mothers to consider this a great learning opportunity for the children and pushed ahead with the plans.

A couple of days before going, all of us attending were given instructions about what we could and could not wear to the ceremony. No jeans allowed for either the mothers nor the children. White socks or split toed kimono socks were required. No jewelry or watches could be worn. The rule about the jeans is probably because this was a formal setting so one had to be properly attired. The white socks is just part of the propriety on entering a tea room and probably dates back to when everyone wore kimono anyway. The no jewelry rule is set so that all people participating are visibly on an equal level, are not limited by time, and also because the tea cup which is used for drinking the tea is very valuable and rings could scratch the surface and pendants could bang against it. Again, why, oh why are we letting kindergarten children handle these extremely valuable tea cups?!

I didn't really know what to expect when I arrived at the emperor's summer residence Wednesday morning, but I was directed to a wing of the palace hidden away in a lovely garden. I removed my shoes at the simple but very large entrance and then followed signs through a labyrinth of hallways and rooms until I found a cluster of kindergarten mothers all dressed in kimono, looking very nervous and awaiting the arrival of the kindergarten bus which was expected to arrive at any moment. I was ushered into a very cold room where 5 or 6 invited mothers were waiting but we were instructed that we weren't allowed to talk and instead we all sat quietly and formally on our knees.

Two sides of the room were closed off with paper window shades (shoji) and I ventured a peek out of one by sliding it open. To my surprise there were no glass windows or walls to separate us from the lovely moss covered garden and stream running past the palace. No wonder it was cold! Zero insulation! A few minutes passed and we were directed into the tea ceremony room where 15 of the children were now seated quietly on their knees waiting for the proceedings to begin. What a surprise to find that these normally unruly children had filed in quietly and were all serious and silent!

The tea ceremony began with the tea ceremony teacher formally (meaning with many deep bows and head nearly touching the tatami mats) welcoming us.

"Thank you for your honorable presence to our very humble tea ceremony. We serve you children today in celebration of your up-coming graduation from kindergarten (in March) and rejoice at the beginning of your scholarly school life." Many deep bows from all the children.

Next three kimono-ed mothers silently glided into the room carrying three or four tea implements that would be used in the ceremony and the children listened solemnly as each implement was explained. The three mothers glided silently out taking the implements with them, but immediately afterwards a whole troupe of kimono-ed mothers entered the room and positioned themselves here and there behind the guests to help as needed. (And maybe to make sure no child dropped a very expensive tea cup!)

Finally the mother performing the ceremony entered and began the intricate ritual of making tea, each movement precise and each position of her fingers and wrists controlled and patterned in an ancient rite. The children hardly dared to breathe and all sat as still as statues. Other mothers glided into the room carrying small sweet bean cakes on special white paper and laid one in front of each child. Bows were given and returned and then the first child was instructed to pick up paper and cake and bow slightly to the child sitting next to him and say "Please forgive me for partaking before you." and then the cake was delicately eaten. I had to hide my smiles as each child mimicked the child in front of him and politely repeated the phrase to the child on the other side of him! Who would have dreamt that children could be taught such manners!

Next the tea was served and again instructions were whispered to pick up the cup with both hands, turn it slightly away from you, bow to the person next to you again, sip the tea quickly, (only a few mouthfuls in there anyway) delicately wipe the cup rim with your fingers and return the cup to the position in front of you again. I could have clapped at how each little 5 year old managed to do as instructed and not one of them made a face or complained about the frothy green and very bitter tea!

The whole ceremony must have lasted 40 minutes and then we all were requested to admire the garden (open those paper doors) and the flower arrangement in the alcove. This too, the children did with grave faces. Finally they were led out of the room and through the maze of hallways to another room where they would wait for the next group of 15 children to finish what would be the same experience. My goodness! Such angels!

I wasn't able to stay through the next group's ceremony but I certainly hope they did as well as the first group! I'm sure it was an experience that all the children will remember for a long time!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Mrs. Ochiai

Today my friend Mrs. Ochiai came to help me out with my computer. Over the years Mrs. Ochiai has given me advice about my computer, come to my rescue when I am digitally confused and installed software for me. She is the friend who got me started on blogging in the first place! Today she gave me a lesson in making a Christmas/New Year's card with some software that I had forgotten how to use. Throughout the 5 hours that she was here I think that Mrs. Ochiai was tactfully trying to tell me that this computer is so old and slow and out-dated that I should just break-down and buy a new computer. That alone would solve a lot of my problems... but I'm not ready to do that yet so I have to ask her to figure out some way to make my slightly obsolete computer do some things that are really supposed to be easy to accomplish. Anyway, thanks to Mrs. Ochiai who reconnected me to MSN, hopefully I'll be able to get in contact with Takumi again. I also hope to make my cards this weekend before I forget all she told me today!

Although we had a very nice time, one minor problem is that Mrs. Ochiai doesn't like cats! (She likes dogs though.) Of course she knows I have four cats yet she willingly steps into my cat filled house to help me. If only the cats would just leave her alone! But no, they seem to be not the least bit insulted of Mrs. Ochiai's aversion to them and would suddenly jump up on the computer desk or even dare to leap onto her lap. We finally had to lock them out of the room which meant we played with the computer in the cold. I'm sure Mrs. Ochiai was exhausted just from protecting herself from my cats all day! (If you look carefully you can see all four of them sitting together in that chair!)

Thank you Mrs. Ochiai!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Pumpkin pudding

I'm afraid my days haven't had anything too exciting going on (maybe I should be grateful!) and recently I'm just concentrating on staying warm! I'm going to have to move a heater into the sewing room because I hesitate to go up there and sew just because it is so cold. No sewing done for the past few days.

So how about an ultra simple recipe for pumpkin pudding? I am not much of a cook so you know if I'm cooking it, it must be easy. I think I got this off the Internet and everyone seems to like it so I make it often during this season. Actually I used a pumpkin that Tetsu had grown! You couldn't really call the block of ground that a local farmer is letting him use a garden or even a pumpkin patch. Tetsu just planted seeds in the spring, ignored the area for four months and then brought home 10 or 12 pumpkins in early October. Anyway, yesterday's pumpkin pudding was made from one of the free grown pumpkins. All measurments are pretty iffy.

Pumpkin Pudding
400gms of pumpkin (about 1/4 of a small pumpkin)
2 eggs
5 Tablespoons sugar
200cc milk (3/4 cup)

1. Preheat oven to 180C. (350F)
2. Peel and cube pumpkin and boil
3. Puree pumpkin with hand mixer and all other ingredients.
4. Pour into small greased Pyrex casserole dish (or cake pan)
5. Place casserole dish in a pan of water and bake 1 hour.
6. Serve with whipped cream.

Actually there was one time when everyone just raved about this! That was the time I burned the pumpkin at the boiling stage! I scraped the charred parts off the pumpkin pieces and went ahead and used the pumpkin and the friends I served it to thought it had an absolutely delicious smokey flavor. I've never had enough courage to burn the pumpkin again but always keep in mind that failures can sometimes be hidden blessings!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Choco trained?

What do cheese, a tin can and a chain have in common? (Quilting Rush knows the answer). Dog training!

Yesterday I had a very interesting and fun day with Choco and a dog trainer! Unfortunately I was so busy training and trying to absorb the information that I forgot to take pictures (probably couldn't anyway because my hands were busy with the cheese etc.) I think Choco had a good time too though she was probably mentally tired out.

We had arranged to have the trainer come to our house and check out Choco's situation. Choco has a barking "problem" that we'd like to cure her of. One piece of advice that I got was that we need to give Choco more "privacy" so she doesn't feel she has to bark at every person, bicycle, bird etc that crosses her line of vision. I'll have to convince Tetsu of that necessity. He's already put so much time and effort into this dog's comfort that he's not going to appreciate being told he needs to build a higher fence or a larger kennel with a roof and four walls.

Then the trainer and I took Choco for our normal walk. I got lots of advice on how to control Choco on and off commands, exchanged a chain collar for a shorter one, and got a demonstration on how to keep her attention with cheese treats. I understand the principal of dog training. Praise the dog for her concentration, for her effort rather than bribe her or scold her. But I was tired out trying to remember when to say "No", when to praise, timing the treats just right etc. It was really helpful for me to see the trainer work Choco and I could watch how strong the jerk is, the soft voice that the trainer used and the authority projected.

Back at home we let Choco in the house so that the trainer could see how she begs and races around the house and knocks over things etc. Got a little advice for that situation. And the biggest hurdle was figuring out how to have Choco in her cage in the house while I have English kids coming in and out. We are going into deep winter now and with English kids here I haven't been able to let Choco into the house until nearly 9:00 at night. She sits and shivers or barks and whines so I've really wanted to be able to bring her in earlier. The problem is that Choco hates children and goes into a ferocious mode that is impossible to stop! This is a potentially dangerous situation. Yesterday when the English kids first started arriving, the trainer gave commands and when Choco lost it the tin can (with a chain inside) was thrown against the cage to startle her. Just the startle stopped her barking and she was rewarded with cheese. The amazing thing is that even when the other children came, Choco stayed controlled. I had to tell the trainer that this wasn't the normal Choco. She is usually attacking the cage and I'm afraid she'll break out! Not yesterday. Even after the trainer went home and later when the kids were leaving, Choco was suspicious but never made a sound. Of course she got a cheese reward for her good behavior! There is hope for her yet!

This morning explaining yesterday's training session to Tetsu and trying out all the techniques I had learned wasn't as easy alone as with the trainer beside me coaching, but Choco did better than usual!

Maybe the biggest reward for me (and for Choco) was to have the trainer confirm that she really is a good dog and very bright, just scared. And another pat on the back for me was that the trainer kept telling me that with Choco's abused background, she has progressed wonderfully even without professional help so we have been doing something right!

Dogs and people all grow with love, praise and consistency!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Light and color

I've got a busy day planned for today and I really need to clean house before I start so this will be short.

Yesterday I was at church all day putting up Christmas decorations. Our little church is off and away in the countryside and along the dark country road many cars whiz by hardly noticing our little building. Of course there is a light on the cross during the year but at Christmastime we really let our light shine by putting up lots of lights! Probably a lot of people driving down the dark road come across this oasis of light during the winter season and remark "Say, there's a church way out here!" At least that's what we hope. Official lighting is this coming Sunday so I'll try to get a nighttime picture.

"You're here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world...
... shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives."
Matthew 5: 14,16 Message Bible

So, with no picture from that I'll show you what I put up on my door this week. Actually it is the same wreath I've had up there for a month but I took off the Halloween decorations and made felt balls to stick here and there instead. Still trying to get "God-colors" into the winter months! Someone had given me a big bag of colored wool for felt making and so I tried to recall the way you do this project. Hot water and detergent is what I remember and then you roll the wool in your hands and squeeze and push and prod until the fibers entangle themselves. My balls sort of clumped rather than come out round so I did something wrong but for this purpose it is forgivable.

Ok. I'm off for the day!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Maneki neko

Yesterday I had a creative morning. I spent most of it up in the sewing room and I have made another cat block and have put all cat blocks together into one big block. I hope to get the dogs put together this week too and then I'll show you what I've got.

Anyway, here is my cat block just because I wanted to explain what I was aiming for. This is a maneki neko. In Japan you can find them at the entrance to many shops or over the doors. Maneki means welcome and neko means cat. While in America, you call to someone to come by moving your fingers towards you with the palm facing upwards, in Japan, the palm is facing down when the fingers are moved (try it) and this means "Come here." When cats wash their faces they move their paw up over their eyes and down and Japanese interpret this to mean that the cat is calling to you.

There is a legend that a samurai warrior saw a cat waving him into a small shop and because he made the slight detour he was saved from an ambush. Hence the belief that a maneki neko brings good luck. Some maneki nekos hold gold coins which is supposed to mean the cat is calling in wealth to the home or shop. The shopkeepers probably display the maneki neko in hopes that both customers and money will feel welcomed to the business. My maneki neko does a good job of welcoming many people into my home, but his monetary powers seem to be somewhat lacking...

My maneki neko wonky block is calling you to come and visit my blog again!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Winter flowers

There are things I need to do on this computer that I have done before and I can't remember how to do them. It's driving me crazy and put me in a very bad mood. I don't know if the computer is the problem or me! Grrr. Every year I make and send out Christmas/New Years cards with family pictures. I do it only once a year of course so in the course of the year I have forgotten how! My computer is so old I'm afraid to download software that would make the whole process easier so I aggravate myself to distraction trying to understand Microsoft Word (and in the Japanese language, so you can multiply those frustrations ten-fold!) I was also trying to "chat" with Takumi but this computer for some reason no longer does chat so I can't get to him either.

My computer and I have a love/hate relationship. I caress the keys daily while blogging, looking for Internet information and e-mailing but sometimes I'd like to dump my coffee cup contents over its head (if I could find it.)

So, what do I have to report on today?

I went to the local nursery and bought some flowers to hopefully make our front yard a little more colorful during the winter months. Every year I think I ought to give up on flowers. I'm such a terrible gardener. I feel sorry for the poor plants that come to my home. I sort of dig a hole, stick them in and when they've wilted give them water. In the winter I'm afraid to even do that since I know that water will turn to ice. For yesterday's flowers I most stayed with habotan which I know is hardy enough to last most of the winter. Do you have these in other countries? I've never seen them in California. In the dictionary it says they are a type of kale! Wow! I wonder if you could eat them?

When I first came to Japan there seemed to be only one type that was big and looked very much like an over grown cabbage. I did not think everyone's houses looked so attractive with cabbages sitting around their yard but now that I'm a homeowner I realize it is about the only thing that will live through the winter. And nowadays there are so many types you can pick and choose. I chose ones that were smaller and a bit more floral.

All the other plants that I've been helping along throughout the summer months I have moved indoors, and now they only have to survive being ravaged by the cats!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Regular life

Back to every day life.

Lemi has come around beautifully and seems to be fully recovered. I fed her medicine for a week and stuffing those pills down her throat put my fingers in danger each night! Not happy with me! The interesting thing is that her personality has really changed. She used to be very aloof and finicky but now she seeks out people's laps, wants to eat all the time, plays with my yarn, sleeps in Choco's bed (during the day when Choco is outside) and has even made friends with Choco. The two of them can be together and Choco won't attack anymore! I don't know if this is an attitude change in just Lemi or if it is in Choco, but the two can sit side by side now! Amazing!

And here is Patora. She is such a fat cat! And she always is getting into something. She seems to find the printer fascinating as it spits out papers to her and she can spend quite a bit of time just watching the printer do its job.

And here is Patora again sitting at the entrance. She is "talking" with a Halloween candy dispenser (I put it away after I took this picture.) The dispenser works by a light sensor and when you reach in for the candy in the dish it talks to you. "Happy Halloween!" "Go pick on someone your own size". Patora was sitting there in the light and every time she moved a bit the dispenser would talk to her. Occasionally she "meowed" back and was making acquaintance with this new friend.

I finally found some time to sew yesterday and I made up two more dog blocks and I'm quite pleased with those. These look like dogs don't they? If I put some button eyes on them when the quilt is finished, you could tell that these are furry friends can't you? These took a lot of time to make and I wasted a lot of fabric by sewing, cutting off excess, cutting off again, cutting off AGAIN, throwing the piece away, starting over... I seem to have forgotten a tail on the one dog but I don't think I can add it at this late date.

And for knitting, I have started a vest for Tetsu. This is yarn from another vest that I had knitted for him a few years ago and that he stopped wearing. I unraveled the yarn and now am re-knitting it. Do you think I'm cheap? Well, yarn is expensive and though I always budget for his yearly vest or sweater and re-knit old yarn into things for myself, there's no way I'm going to get around to my own knitting this year so I might as well use the yarn and save some money!

Thursday, November 15, 2007


Are you getting tired of kimono pictures? Ok. This will be the last for awhile. There were a couple of questions I thought I'd answer here.

Tracey in ct asked about what Leiya was holding besides the handbag. (Takumi was holding one in his picture too). That is a paper bag that has a long piece of white candy in it called Chitoseame which translates as "thousand year candy". I think it is supposed to symbolize long life and health and there is a drawing of a turtle and a crane on it. Takumi is also holding a fan (Leiya has one tucked in the obi) and I think someone told me that this represents a sword!

Tonya asked about damaged kimonos and what happens to them. I have no idea but traditionally women's old and damaged kimonos were remade into children's kimonos. I know that I can occasionally find scraps of kimono fabric being sold in kimono shops, left overs from making a kimono, but remember there is very little cutting involved when sewing a kimono so not many scraps result. At any rate, they are usually silk and even the scraps are very dear and expensive. I've never bought any since I've never worked in silk.

I have bought old kimonos at recycle shops but there is a wide price range even there. Occasionally I have found some for less than $15 and bought a couple but usually they run quite a bit more and here again, I don't know what to do with them after I have them.

Did you know that kimonos are taken completely apart for cleaning? I'm sure nowadays you can have some kimonos dry cleaned but I think people fear that the kimonos will be damaged and instead go the traditional way of taking out all the stitches, removing lining etc., professionally having it washed (I don't know how) and then having the whole kimono re-sewn by hand again. (Heaven forbid that a sewing machine would be used on a kimono!) You can see why a kimono is expensive and you certainly don't want to spill something on it. Maybe another reason why gentile Japanese ladies move with such small, delicate grace especially when wearing a kimono!

Quiltingfitzy commented that Leiya looked so serious in her formal picture. And the earlier pictures when the kids were 3 and 5, no smiles whatsoever! This is true in all formal picture taking (weddings too!), nobody smiles! Quiltingfitzy also asked about the family picture and I decided to go ahead and post it even though Tetsu and I are gray haired nowadays, and none of us look anything like we did over 10 years ago. Ah well. You will notice we are SMILING!