Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008 quilting year

So. These are my accomplishments quiltwise this year... Hmm... I really need to get back to the sewing room.

Let's see, the When-oh-When quilt was a biggie and that went to Leiya's home stay family in the States to thank them for taking care of her for THREE WHOLE YEARS! It turned out to be a beautiful quilt and I'd like to make one of my own someday (positive thinking!)

The 365 challenge is still in flimsy stage. Well, I worked on it long and hard!

The Orange and Cherry Jubilee is in flimsy stage too. I don't have any immediate plans for that.

The Wonky Word quilt is coming along slowly. Hand quilting you know. That takes priority over everything next year!

And then there were at least three Prayer and Square quilts, three Happy Village quilts, a baby quilt, a woven background quilt and a Cowboy boot quilt kit that got finished in quick time. These were mostly smaller quilts.

Also worked long and hard on the bazaar quilt (which I certainly didn't make alone but I did spend quite a bit of time on it!)

And I did little projects, tissue holders, ornaments, knitted a sweater and a vest, tried some simple weaving, made lots of pillow cases, kept up with the Noah's Ark embroidery. There must be more to say for the year 2008 but off the top of my hat I can't think of anything...

Here's hoping for more progress in 2009!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

End of the year cleaning

Not a thing interesting to tell you about.

I spent all day yesterday cleaning house and really only got the living room done. Was it such a mess? I didn't think so but that is the extent of the area that looks nice after all my work. I got out my timer and flipped open my old Flylady notebook (Control Journal) and spent the whole dang day cleaning, which is completely against the Flylady's advice but anyway I had to start somewhere! Flylady suggests working in 15 minute increments which I did. Gather up all the Christmas things for 15 minutes. Go do the laundry. Put Christmas things away for 15 minutes. Wash the breakfast dishes. Bring out the knick-knacks for the living room and dust. As I was hauling those back down I thought,

"If I just left all this stuff in this box that they've been in for the past month that would give me a whole lot less to dust this next year. If someone accidentally threw out the box would I really miss it that much? Maybe this is just clutter."

I spent 15 minutes setting it all up anyway. Most of it is my cat knick-knack collection. I went and read a book on my 15 minutes off. And so on and so on throughout the day until the living room looked pretty good.

Today and tomorrow Tetsu and I are devoting the end of the year to housecleaning (along with every one else in Japan) and I will attack the sewing room while he does the laundry room. He is so much better at cleaning than I am. (I am a better cook. But I've told you how poor a cook I am so feel pity for us.)

As I was setting out things in my living room yesterday I got to put up this cute little basket lamp that Marlene had given me. Isn't this sweet? It has so much detail with the rattan flowers and even little rattan handbag. Such a cute piece for my collection of cats!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Omochi making

I'm backing up to a few days ago to when I was invited to the nursery school yearly event of making omochi. Hmm... How to explain omochi? Simply it is just a rice cake. It is made of a different kind of rice than one normally eats for breakfast or dinner and it is extremely sticky. When it is pounded it makes a glutinous mass that is heavy and needs to be shaped into little cakes or, after it hardens, cut into small pieces. Omochi is a necessity at New Year's and occasionally at other celebrations (much like you can't have Thanksgiving without a turkey? You can't have New Year's without omochi in Japan.) When I was a child my father (American all the way!) would turn up his nose at omochi that my Japanese grandparents would eat.

"The reason Japanese only eat that stuff once a year is because it stays in your stomach all year long!"

He did not appreciate omochi.

On Monday I went to the nursery school where the principal and teachers were getting the steamed omochi rice ready to be pounded. In olden days all farm families has these huge mortor and mallet and communities would gather to pound rice and shape them into balls. Nowadays someone has invented an automated omochi pounder which looks like a mini-washing machine or maybe like a bread maker. The steamed omochi rice is thrown in and after about 10 minutes of spinning and agitating it turns to the right consistency for shaping.

So that the nursery school children would get the idea of how omochi is really made, the principal acquired a mortar and mallet and let them have a go at it. Actually this set is child size. The real ones are quite a bit larger and two people can pound at the same time. The kids took turns pounding the rice while every called out encouragement in rhythm.

"Heave-ho! Don't give up!"

As you can see, I got into the act too.

Afterwards, the teachers and I made mini rice balls and three flavors of omochi were prepared. From top to bottom, soy sauce and sea weed omochi, fermented soy bean omochi, and sweet bean paste omochi. Yum! The kids wanted seconds and thirds and fourths!

Already at home I have been given two or three bags of farm made omochi and another friend called last night to tell me to come pick up a slab that she had prepared for me. We may eat nothing else but omochi for New Year's!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Tetsu's vest

Here's the promised picture of Tetsu wearing his new vest. Hey it worked out okay don't you think? A little loose around the bottom and I'm not sure why since I used smaller needles and even knitted with elastic thread but I'm not taking it all out now... Tetsu says it is very warm. It should be!! It's supposed to have a tweedy look but it looks more like mohair. Now why would that be do you think? BECAUSE THE CATS HAVE SAT ON IT SO MUCH I'VE KNITTED THEIR FUR ALL INTO IT! Ah well, Tetsu's going to be picking up cats and sitting with them anyway so we'll just call this a fake mohair vest.

Do you know, one of the nicest things Tetsu has said this week is, when he was holding either Toi or Chip

"Chip and Toi were the best presents of all for us this year."

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Train ride

I had such a fun day yesterday! Lots going on and all different. Threw out all my plans for the day and went and played! My plans in the evening to clean and write New Year's cards and maybe get to some quilting or embroidery went out the window too when Marlene called and suggested I join her to a concert that she was going to.

Hmm. One problem. I wouldn't get back until very late and the roads would be icy. Well, then how about going by train, (we each live in another city and there are trains servicing to Utsunomiya, the largest city nearby) and then we could meet at the station. Marlene does it all the time but for me,

"Wow! An adventure!"

Sure, why not? I'm up for some excitment. Drive over to the community station and leave the car. Now, how do I get on the train? Not that it is a difficult job, it is just that in the 16 years I've lived here I've only gone through this station one other time though Takumi had to ride the train into the city every day when he was in high school. It is a one train line and the trains run once an hour. No station master even, everything is automated but of course I didn't know how to buy my ticket either. I pleaded the stupid foreigner (that I am!) and asked an elderly man for help. He must have felt good being on the helping end rather than the receiving end for once. He showed me how much I needed to deposit, which buttons to push, where to stand on the platform etc. I gave him a big smile and a "THANK YOU!" in English.

Marlene kept tabs on me by cell phone text messaging. Sigh. I was really planning to trash my cell phone next year because I use it so little but I have to admit it comes in handy when trying to connect up with a friend. Actually by the end of the evening I was ready to trash it again but I'll get to that story later.

Marlene text messaged me when she arrived at the station.

"I'm here."

"Me too." I text back as the train pulled in. "...but I don't know where I am in the station."

Marlene is easy to spot though with her blond hair so we connected easily and then spent an hour or so chatting and catching up on our families (she has two kids going to college in the States too right now) and then we went to the concert.

Great evening but it didn't finish until 9:30. That's okay. I had text Tetsu when I was coming into the city and specifically let him know I was in the city too and that I had come by TRAIN and that maybe I could catch him later and we could go back home together. He had text me back that I should have a good time. When the concert was finished I text him again,

"Hi. I'm done. How about you?"

"I'm done too."

"Good, then maybe you can pick me up."

"See you at the house."


He'd never made any promises to pick me up so I didn't have grounds to be irritated. Marlene and I just went to the station to catch our respective trains but hers left at 10:00 and mine didn't leave until 10:45. So there I sat munching peanuts that I'd bought surrounded by slightly drunk, basically harmless Japanese businessmen.

Once on the train I got to observe the typical Japanese salaryman coming home after a late day at the office and a quick round of drinking with collegues. I could hardly keep from laughing!

Two very distinguished businessmen in almost identical dark suits and trench coats carrying almost identical black brief cases, tipsily weaved their way to the seats facing me across the aisle. They smiled goofily at each other occasionally bumping heads and going to great roars of laughter and then realizing the noise they were making would shush each other up and giggle like girls.

Pretty soon another businessman that they obviously knew hailed them and dropped into the seat next to them. He too seemed to have overtaxed his quota of alcoholic intake and was having trouble staying in his seat. The three of them looked like they were on the verge of tears because they'd found long lost connections and one man brought out three cans of beers from his briefcase and suggested that they celebrate right there. The oldest of the three declined saying he'd drunk enough and very cheerfully said he felt like he was going to throw up which sent his companions into gales of laughter and they told him to let them know when he was about to unleash because they wanted to move to the far end of the train. (Me too!)

For the rest of the 30 minute trip they told jokes, got into a slightly raunchy story of bar maids they'd known and prophesized about what their wives were going to say when they arrived home. Throughout it all they occasionally clinked their beer cans in comaradarie and either roared with laughter or shushed and giggled and spilled beer on themselves. The man who was ready to throw up decided to fall asleep and the other two laughed and breathed into each other's faces plotting to just leave him sleeping when they got to his train stop. I got off before any of them so I don't know if they made it off the train or not. Provided some good entertainment for me on the long ride home!

I finally pulled into the driveway at 11:30 and Tetsu says

"Where were you?"

"In Utsunomiya with Marlene."

"Oh, hope the drive wasn't bad. I don't like you driving on the icy roads."

"I came back by train of course. That's why I text you!"

"Oh! Did you go by train? I was busy and didn't read all of your messages. I couldn't figure out why you kept texting me. You usually don't like the cell phone."

"Why do I have this dumb cell phone and why do I go to all the trouble to text you IN JAPANESE WHICH IS HARD ON MY BRAIN if you don't even bother to read my messages?!"

What do you think? Should I get rid of my cell phone or not? Well, thanks to Tetsu I got my laugh on the train ride home.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas presents

We have our first snow today! Not very heavy and I'm still planning to go out (I'm not good at driving in the snow but I've decided that this is non threatening.)

Tetsu and I opened our presents which were all things we either picked out for ourselves or went shopping together to buy. I am tickled with a very elegant watch that I chose for myself and which has a LARGE face so that I can read the numbers now without looking for my reading glasses! Ooh! Do I feel feminine! I don't know what this will do for my jeans wardrobe but it is a very lovely watch!

For myself I ordered a blog book from Blurb and it has turned out soooooo beautifully that I ordered another one for my mother! She has trouble dealing with the computer but she seems to like reading a lot. Well, she will get 200 pages of reading! Unfortunately Blurb doesn't link with Blogger anymore so it is only because I made this book a few months ago that I can order it now. Too bad. I am very happy with the results and I hope that they'll figure out how to reconnect with Blogger because this is a GREAT way to keep your blog in a physical form. Anybody who uses another type of blog engine and wants to put their blog into book form should check out this website! (Can you tell that I am happy?)

Tetsu's vest seemed to fit him. It wasn't a big surprise for him of course since he had seen me working on it all these weeks and even saw the finished product on this blog a couple of days ago. It could have been a little longer but he pulls at it anyway so his knitted things tend to grow. Rats. Forgot to get a picture of him today as he went off to work. Maybe tomorrow. I also got both of us some little hot spa bags so that we can carry our own shampoo and body scrubs etc. to the onsen. And I bought Tetsu a pass to the nearby onsen that he likes to visit.

Hope I can get out and back before the snow comes down any harder! Merry Christmas to you all again who are still on the 25th!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!


Today is Christmas Day here in Japan already but the day goes on as usual. Children go to school (Yes! Oh Christmas Day!), Tetsu has left for work. Even I'm teaching tonight (last class. I did take Christmas Eve off to worship at the Christmas Eve service.)

Most of the kids that come for English say that they don't have a Christmas tree in their homes. That's only for families with kindergarten children and younger. Most of the kids think I'm crazy when I ask if they've bought or made any Christmas presents for their friends or family members. Christmas is for getting, not giving... well, that could be a universal child's view of Christmas. Most families probably bought a Christmas Cake last night and the younger children woke up this morning to a Christmas present set beside their pillows.

I figure that a lot of the reason the neighborhood children come to my house is to get a taste of American customs, not just to study English, so the week before Christmas I don't do so much English. For the whole month I have the kids who come read a simple advent calendar with the Christmas story in Japanese. We light an advent wreath weekly and sing an advent song in Japanese (I make the 5th and 6th graders attempt at the English but it is a bit above them.) and then I get out craft materials and we make Christmas decorations. This year's decorations were angels made of lace and Styrofoam balls and left over batting. A few years ago I bought a box of wedding ring favors in the States and the plastic/gold wedding rings make great angel halos!

Many children have passed through my home over the years. Some of them continue to develop the introduction they had to English here. Others, will tell me that they absolutely hate English and do poorly in school. Some of the kids will visit me years past, most of them won't even say hello to me on the street corner. But I hope that all of them will each year at Christmas time remember the Christmas traditions that I tried to show them in my home.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A faucet

Yesterday I went to a pet loss seminar. It wasn't a group therapy session but rather a city wide seminar for vets and nurses and pet owners who were interested. Why are you going to put yourself through that Tanya? asks Tetsu. He knows I crumble very easily when we start talking about animals and loss.

Well, my vet was holding the seminar. A speaker with strong American Veterinary Association connections was going to be speaking. My vet knows the trials I go through (American thinking versus Japanese thinking) when each of my pets leaves and even when we acquire a new one. I've had a couple months of a pretty balanced life. I'm not sobbing at the mention of any past pets names. I actually felt this was an area I could talk about without getting all emotional (it is the strays and lost animals that still send me spiraling into the dumps).

Hah! I am worn out today from all the crying! It is so embarrassing that the tears come like a faucet and I don't even know what I'm crying about! Just listening to other people's situations, even listening to the funny stories about reactions from non-animal lovers towards slightly batty pet-owners. My handkerchief got soggy. And then I even put myself through a two hour video, much of it in English, about Pet Lost therapy in the States and the need for it in Japan.

I threw caution to the winds and even offered the opinion (with wavering voice) that euthanasia was too hard a decision to leave to the pet owners and that the veterinarians needed to assertively suggest the option. I think I hurt my vet's feelings since he defended himself by saying that my family is unique because I have one opinion and Tetsu has another and the vet is stuck in the middle. I let everyone know that though I've had my doubts about lots of the doctors I've encountered I've never been unhappy with my vet. And I gave him a very American hug in front of everybody and told him I loved him! (Well, in Japanese it comes out that I like him very much, but he was surprised by the public hug!)

A couple things though stood out in the seminar. That pet owners who lose their pets aren't strange to be in grief even for months afterwards. That different people deal with losses different ways, some go out an get a new pet right away, some can't think about it for years. However being afraid of the grief and never having a pet again is probably not the answer. Think of all the wonderful memories that would never get made!

Good glory, just writing this has turned on the faucet again. Sometimes I don't even think this is grief over pet loss. I think it is a general compassion for animals and for all the people who love them.

This is a picture of our old dog Shoko taking up room on the sofa. She had a dislocated shoulder so she often felt it more comfortable using the arm rest. I always thought she looked like she was joining in on the conversation around her. She is also wearing diapers in this picture which was very bad for our sofa. But I didn't feel I could ban her from the furniture when she was old just because she needed diapers. Now you know the real reason why I do not want Choco up on the sofa!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


Knit, knit, knit. Uh-oh... Tink, tink, tink. Okay, try again.

That was what my day was like yesterday. BUT... I HAVE FINISHED TETSU'S CHRISTMAS PRESENT!! Whew!

I spent the whole day yesterday doing the finishing touches on the vest that was started, when? At least from November. I really expected to be done with this sooner but December busyness took over. Yesterday I had to get this finished because I was running low on yarn and since today is a holiday I knew the yarn store would be closed.

"Oh no! Don't tell me I'm going to run out of yarn! The yarn shop is clear on the other side of the next town!"

I had completed the two sides of the front and the back and had only the ribbing left to do when I went into my last skein of yarn. My skein kept getting lighter and lighter and I kept thinking that I needed to make a decision to go buy yarn or not by 2:00 so I could go the 45 minutes to the yarn store, buy the yarn and get back home before 4:30 (English class).

Sew the ribbing around the front. Looks good. Knit, knit, knit. Make the armhole and do a neat job of finishing the edge of the ribbing. WHAT?!? I followed the directions! Why is the armhole flapping? What time is it? Pull out the edging (I think I need to get stronger reading glasses!) Tink, tink, tink. Okay put the armhole back in with fewer stitches. Knit, knit, knit. Hey! It looks like I have enough yarn after all! Thank you Lord for small blessings! Repeat on the other side. Make button holes. I definitely need stronger reading glasses! And Voila! Done!

Of course I won't know whether it really fits or not until Tetsu tries it on. I've held it up to one of his old vests and it looks like it will fit. There have been years when I started all over and tinked and re-knitted through the New Year holidays. And there are been years when we just took whatever I'd made over to his mother and said "Here's an unexpected hand-me-down." And there have been a couple of years when I reaped the benefits of my own knitting. ("Rats. If I'd known I was going to wear this I would have used a cheerier color.") So you can see that my yearly knitting efforts are pretty hit and miss.

At least I don't have to tink about it anymore before Christmas!

Monday, December 22, 2008


Michele, who is a wonderful writer, full of wisdom and knowlege and who often shows beautiful pictures of her homeland in Alaska, tagged me the other day to show the fourth picture in the fourth file of a collection and with a few clicks I came upon a picture of someone doing the accounting at my church. You know, counting the offerings in the collection plate and turning in a report. I thought it was very typically Japanese.

It used to be that all the mom and pop shops along the streets and in the neighborhood had a rickety, dinging cash register and alongside it a well worn abacus called a soroban in Japanese. I even remember my grandfather boasting that he was faster at using the soroban than most people are at using a calculator. It also used to be that if any woman wanted to hold down a job; and in the past the only jobs available for young women were office lady jobs (referred to in Japan as OL), then she must have attained a certain ranking in abacus classes. Of course nowadays I think being able to use a computer is a more marketable skill in the working world.

My kids were instructed to buy an abacus around 3rd grade and they were taught the rudimentary workings at school but I don't think they gained any great skill. I know I have a couple children who come to English and who also go to abacus school once a week (2nd graders). They are involved in calculating competitions and working up their speed however I don't think parents consider this as necessary a skill as it used be. (Advertisement for abacus school from the Internet).

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Christmas rush

We had a somewhat successful Children's Christmas program at our church yesterday. I say somewhat successful because while two of the church members put on a very professional puppet show, there were only about 25 people attending which was a bit discouraging. I think we should have Christmas programs in May or something. Everyone is too busy at Christmas too attend Christmas programs! I know that some of the people attending were coming straight from a nursery school Christmas program; no Christian affiliation but,

"Hey, everyone celebrates Christmas, right?! Did you hear that Jesus was born on Christmas? Lucky Guy! By the way, do Christians get to celebrate Christmas too?" (actual comments I've heard in Japan.)

I've hardly got my own priorities straight because I raced around from helping at our church's program to an evening Christmas program held by church in the next city over at the city's culture center. Nearly 1000 people attended this program and it was wonderful!!! A fantastic hand bell choir, some wonderful classical music, and a fantastic gospel group of over 60 people! And this was all talent from one church. So you see, some churches are really booming in Japan! The auditorium was so vast that my pictures didn't turn out at all from there so nothing to show...

Came home and made meatballs to take to a pot luck lunch at church today but horrors! My meatballs disintegrated! I AM SUCH A TERRIBLE COOK!!! So this morning I've boiled up some macaroni and made an "Italian Meat Sauce Casserole" so my menu has suddenly changed...

BUT this evening Tetsu is taking me out to buy me a watch (one that I can read without putting on my reading glasses!) Yippee!

Nothing to show except of the morning before yesterday's whirlwind began. Here I am with 4 kitties sharing my space. Actually 5 kitties are there but Vel is sleeping UNDER the arm chair in his personal cave. I've got it rigged up with a heated cushion since he doesn't want to vie for lap space with the other kitties.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Persimmon Bread

Let's see. Doing last minute things for Christmas.

Yesterday I finally spent two hours at Starbucks writing Christmas cards. I say finally because I had planned to do this two weeks ago on Friday and then last Friday but since I was down and out I only squeaked under the wire yesterday. If I stayed at home I knew I'd putz around with other things; house cleaning, knitting, dog walking, house cleaning, blog reading, house cleaning, Internet browsing and house cleaning. Not to say that all those things don't have to get done too but sometimes I feel like a mouse in a maze and so I scheduled Christmas cards at Starbucks. I brought my own mug, sat in a corner and enjoyed a sinfully delicious piece of chocolate cake. Well, I still have Japanese cards to send out but I've got til New Years to do those. One to-do thing checked off of my list!

I came home and decided to bake. See, I get off on all these tangents! I didn't have to bake. But I had the ingredients and the persimmons that were softening up nicely and just right for making Persimmon bread so I baked for two hours and worked on Tetsu's vest at the same time. I'll take the bread to the church pot luck on Sunday.

Here is my Persimmon Bread recipe (actually it is Marlene's). It tastes much better than it looks (I'm very bad at presentation and wrapping things.) I love baking in the little paper loaf pans so that loaves can be given away as is and no pan washing afterwards!

Persimmon Bread
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup brand or hot water
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 cups persimmon pulp
  • 1 cup oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 4 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 1 cup walnuts
  1. Soak raisins and hot water.
  2. Mix sugars, persimmon and oil. Add eggs.
  3. Add dry ingredients. Add raisins (and any liquid from soaking) and walnuts.
  4. Pour into 4 greased and floured loaf pans (or use the paper ones like I do).
  5. Bake 50 minutes at 350 degrees.

Hope you're getting done all that needs to be done!

Friday, December 19, 2008


Can you tell what this is?

This is trying to be an owl. My nice neighbor, whose name I don't know, whom we refer to as Yuzu's (the dog), dad, gave it to me. He is a friendly man who comes to watch over the neighborhood kids with Yuzu while I do crosswalk duties. He often brings me presents such as hand painted baskets, pickles, a scarf, hand-made Girl's Day dolls and now this little owl. He and his sister run a care center for older people in the neighborhood and every day maybe 5 or 6 obaachans and ojiichans (grandmas and grandpas) come for the day and make hand crafts. I get the fruit of their efforts!

The little owls are seen quite a lot in gift shops etc. in Japan especially in the country tourist spots. In Japanese, "owl" is pronounced fukuro and fuku means "happiness" so this is a play on words. People will often collect owl decorations as a sort of good luck charm.

Here are some loose directions for making an owl. As it was explained to me, the fabric is cut into a triangle and a smaller triangle is appliqued on one side. Two triangles are sewn together with the bottom left open for turning and stuffing. After lightly stuffing, the bottom is gathered and tacked and the tip of the triangle is turned down to make the head and beak. The eyes and a small triangle of felt are glued in place as is a stick from the forest to make it look like the owl is sitting on a branch. Sort of clever and easy enough for the obaachans to make.


Thursday, December 18, 2008


Every month at the kindergarten where I teach, there is a birthday party and lunch for all the children who have birthdays in that month. In the morning when the children arrive, the birthday boys and girls get to choose a ribbon which is pinned on their shirt or dress. The children and staff gather for a lunch and party prepared by some of the mothers, and throughout the day the ribbon adorned children are recognized and congratulated. The children take home their ribbons and most of them treasure the simple pins for years after.

I never thought about it, but where did those ribbons come from? It has been a tradition at Mifumi Kindergarten for the past 15 years which adds up to a lot of ribbons when you consider that each year the enrollment is about 100 children.

I found out on Monday.

Last Friday when I made an appearance at the kindergarten I was talking to the kindergarten principal and learned that her mother, Mrs. Sato, wasn't well. For many years Mariko-sensei's mother would attend the kindergarten entrance and graduation ceremonies, would come to enjoy the festivities on Sports' Day and would sit quietly on the sidelines during the Christmas pageant. I know that this sweet lady confidentially donated funds to buy the kindergarten playground equipment and that her heart has been directed towards the kindergarten for more than 20 years.

On Sunday night I got word that this lovely lady had passed away at age 91 and Monday I attended her funeral. The kindergarten playground is situated just below the church sanctuary and so the happy sounds of children playing drifted up and seemed very appropriate to the somewhat cheerful funeral service. Besides the sermon and hymns and words from the family, 4 or 5 of the kindergarten children came up quietly from the kindergarten and brought flowers and all of them were wearing their birthday ribbons. Birthday ribbons that Mrs. Sato has made for the kindergarten children for 15 years!

What a testimony of love and commitment! What a message of doing what you can in the place where you are put! Making ribbons is not a big job (actually making a hundred ribbons a year sounds like a big job!) but it was something that this lovely grandmother could do at her own pace and she did it right up until her 90th birthday!

And yes, one of her own ribbons was sent along with her on her eternal Birthday!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Keeping warm

Yesterday Mart Bright commented about the cat in my picture.

"Is that a cat on top of a printer, or some other piece of electronics?? Honestly, these people who let their cats get on everything. I just don't understand them... Hee hee"

Mart has 7 or 8 cats of her own (her cat population changes) so I know she is teasing me. Actually there were two cats in yesterday's picture but I think she was referring to Patora who was sitting on top of the kerosene stove. (I know, this would usually be called a room heater but in Japan we call it a stove). The stove is a favorite spot for all the cats and during this season one or the other of the cats is usually sitting there. Looking at past posts I see that we bought the stove in January of this year but already it is dented on the top because of cat weight! Someone besides me needs to go on a diet!

I don't like kerosene stoves at all but it is what I've lived with for the past 30 years and will probably have to live with for the next 30. This is fairly typical of Japanese homes and everyone has these little room heaters that have a small tank that can be filled with kerosene. The heaters are actually electric and they have a fan that blows the heated air into the room and keeps the heater itself from getting too hot, that's why the cats are able to sit on it.

When I first came to Japan everyone used kerosene heaters that had a grill on top (non-electric) and one could place a kettle on there so that there would be hot water for the every present green tea that Japanese drink. It was very handy for putting a soup on to simmer or for grilling a quick rice ball or sweet potato. In the evenings the metal hot water bottles could be placed directly on the grill and the beds could be warmed before bed. There were dangers however when children bumped into the stove and were badly burned (Tetsu has a horrid scar from an experience with a stove when he was only two). Often the stove was placed in a play pen like gadget to keep animals and children safe. The kerosene stove has played a major role in Japanese culture. (Picture of the old style stove from the Internet.)

But maybe the reasons for not liking them are obvious. The tanks have to be filled about every other day which means that kerosene has to be bought and kept someplace on the back step. Sometimes I make the trek to the gasoline station myself but it seems foolish to me to be hauling around very flammable tanks of kerosene in the trunk of my car. Sometimes we have the kerosene delivered but that costs quite a bit more. Getting the kerosene into the stove tank has been made easier by a hand held battery run pump (someone once suggested that this looked like a bovine enema contraption!) but still it is a messy business and bad on the back. And think of all the fumes that we breathe in all winter long! The heater makes little chirping sounds every hour or so telling humans to open the windows to get fresh air into the room but of course fresh air means icy air and there we are trying not to shiver while the room heats up again.

I augment my room heaters (I have two) with a small heated carpet under my dining room table and a heated cushion that Velvet has adopted. Besides that we run from icy room to icy room (no heating in the bathroom!) and though I can't sit on the stove like the cats, I strip down and change clothes in front of it every morning!


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Christmas wreath

So many of you have made such wonderful Christmas quilts and decorations. I always think I really should get to work and add one piece every year as a tradition but December is really too late to be thinking about that isn't it? I should start in July... But I never do. I have lots of little Christmas ornaments, many of them hand made but I only have three small Christmas quilts for my walls. I thought I showed this before but I can't find it in my blog so maybe not.

Here is another quilt without a date on it so I don't know when I made it but it was at least 5 years ago. Maybe 10. One summer I bought the book Quick Watercolor Quilts and decided to try my hand at the techniques introduced there using fusible interfacing. I made three or four of these little quilts but only kept this Christmas one. I found some pink poinsettia fabric with metallic outline and cut it up into 2" squares. I also found some light pink striped fabric and cut that up likewise. Then it was only a matter of arranging the squares on the fusible interfacing (I'd drawn a grid) fusing and then sewing.

But... It all seemed too squared off and too many corners so I started cutting out the leaves and flowers from the poinsettia fabric and fusing them to the pink fabric. It turned out to be a long~~ process but I'm glad I did it. After fusing, the interfacing is just folded and sewn so it really is a quick process if one doesn't get carried away like I did. I especially liked the way the striped fabric made a woven effect. Finally I hand quilted with metallic thread around all the flowers and leaves (getting carried away again).

Since this quilt is in pink it doesn't look quite so Christmassy so it stays up on the wall until nearly Valentine's Day! It doesn't go with the red, white and green of the rest of the house but that's the best I can do right now. Maybe I can make another one in more traditional colors next year... Next year... NEXT YEAR!!!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Poor eyesight

Good glory, I can't think of a thing to write about today. My brain must be numb from cold medicine, or the weekend in bed just doesn't give a person a lot of reporting material. I'm back to knitting though so you can see I'm perking.

Guess I haven't showed a picture of myself recently so here's one of me knitting last night. Tetsu said I looked "cute" with my hair tied back. Isn't that a nice compliment? His greying, double-chinned wife, peering over her reading glasses and he thinks I'm cute. That's what love can do. Either that or I need to buy the ol' guy some glasses for his poor eyesight.