Monday, March 31, 2008

Echo hearts

I spent most of yesterday quilting on Luke's quilt but have about one more hour's worth to do. What do any of you do about stiff shoulders? People often ask me if I get stiff shoulders when I hand quilt or knit but the only time I'm plagued by this inconvenience is when I've done machine quilting (not machine piecing or regular sewing). Of course the nearly 4 hours of machine quilting could be a cause don't you think!? By 7:00 last night I needed to give my right shoulder/neck a rest. There must be something I'm doing wrong...

Nevertheless, the quilting is coming out satisfactory. Since the Bible quote is from Song of Songs "His banner over me is love" I decided to use a heart quilting pattern though I'm not too sure that a little boy is going to be thrilled with hearts everywhere. Still it seemed appropriate. Mary has done some wonderful echo hearts on her quilts though I think she uses a longarm while I'm on my domestic machine, but I took the plunge and started in.

As with all practice, the more I sewed, the more uniform the hearts became, so the hearts at the bottom and the ones at the top are different. Ah well, this is going to be a practical quilt so as Calico Quilter so aptly put it,

"...quilts are useful objects in my world, not art. My line is always, "Use it and love it, and if you wear it out I'll make you another one!".

Hoping to finish the quilting today. Do you think I can even get binding on? Not if I'm sitting at this computer right?

Sunday, March 30, 2008

A new Work In Progress (sigh)

Yesterday my plan was to go upstairs and make borders for my wonky quilt. So I spread the quilt out on the floor and tried to decide how many pieces of paper I needed to cover in strips in order to get enough for a border to go around. I covered one piece of paper. As I sewed strips I got to thinking that little Luke (see yesterday's post) needs a baby quilt.

"Tanya, are you starting something again? Heidi was so happy with the coat you and Masako-san gave her, she isn't expecting a quilt. You promised not to start something new until you finished this wonky quilt."

"Yeah, but aren't you always saying your time and efforts and quilts shouldn't just be used for yourself? You're making the wonky quilt for yourself AND the 365 challenge quilt for yourself. Tanya, this is what you do! You make quilts, that's one of your few talents so you need to use the time and talent for others so I think you should make a quilt for Luke."

(I talk to myself a lot. It may be a side effect of living in a country where no one understands me.)

To make a long conversation short, I sewed a wonky block that said LUKE and then wondered what I could do with it. At 9:00 at night I was still wondering but I'd pulled more scraps and leaders/enders together and I've gotten this far. I'm assuming that Heidi isn't going to have enough time to be visiting blogs for awhile so I'm showing this as a work in progress

This is not my idea of a heirloom. I think I can get this sewn together (those borders are just laying there) and machine quilted and then tell Heidi that all that light area is supposed to be decorated by Luke with spit up, diaper overflow, and maybe in the future, crayons and grass and fingerprints.

Doesn't the saying go "It's the thought that counts."?

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Welcome to this world!

Yesterday I spent a few hours in the evening visiting my friend Heidi in the hospital. Heidi had her baby on Thursday morning just a few days past due date. A few complications so the baby is in an ICU unit but hourly he is getting better and hopefully he'll be able to go home in about 10 days. Welcome into your new world, little Luke!

Anyway, I went to the hospital expecting to have to give Heidi some extra support but she was actually in very high spirits and had bounced back from the delivery with energy to spare! Seems that running back and forth the the pediatrics ward to visit Luke (not to mention God's goodness) has given her spunk, spirit and a quick recovery. Of course, in the States, pregnancy and delivery aren't considered illnesses and I know new mothers in America are allowed to go home the day after the baby is born, but in Japan it has always been a week long hospital stay and special care for the new mother for the next month.

In my day, new Japanese mothers weren't allowed to touch water for the month which meant they either had their mother or mother-in-law come to take care of the them and the family the whole time, or more frequently, the mother-to-be would just go back to her family a month before the due date (sometimes on the other side of Japan) and stay until the baby was a month or two old. This meant the new dad had to be separated from his wife and new baby for a couple months though he would make the perfunctory hospital visit a few days after someone had phoned him that the baby had arrived. So much for family bonding.

Though the no touching water rule was great if the new mom wasn't up to washing dishes and clothes, I never thought it so wonderful because it also meant that she also couldn't take a shower or wash her hair. Eeww! Gross! Thankfully (especially for Heidi!) this superstition has been set to the wayside and I was interested to hear the nurse tell Heidi yesterday that she was already allowed to take a shower.

Heidi seems to be adjusting to hospital life and hopefully she'll be able to go home in a couple more days (I guess the week hospitalization rule has been changed too). She had been hoping for coffee and donuts for breakfast yesterday morning and was greeted with fermented beans and salty fish so I can see how she may get tired of hospital food pretty fast.

I wish I could show a picture of the new family in one shot but with little Luke still getting special care I only have a picture of mom and dad. You can tell Wataru-san (Heidi's husband) isn't a old fashioned Japanese husband (like Tetsu?) because he didn't mind posing for a quick pic and gave me the okay to post it on the blog!

Please join me in saying a prayer that the new family will all be together soon!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Stumpy the bear and his scarf

I didn't get much done yesterday but I don't know why.

Since the When-oh-When has been finished, I no longer have quilting hand work beside my chair so I've been busying myself with other things that I've always wanted to do but haven't found time for or felt too guilty to leave the When-oh-When to do it.

So my Unfinished Object that has been hidden away for months has been this weaving!

Weaving? Tanya doesn't do weaving. You're right. I don't. But my friend Mrs. Ide had this cute weaving frame that she showed us last fall. She had made a lovely little scarf with it and we all oohed and ahhed and she offered to set it up for the next person to try their hand. Mrs. Okusa went next and a couple of weeks went by and she too had a lovely scarf made by her own hand. My turn. Mrs. Ide set up the frame again and it was handed into my care, whereas I did a few rows. Whereas I put it back in it's box. Whereas it has been since the end of last year.

So finding myself quilt free I pulled out the box and went back to work on the weaving frame and it didn't take long to weave myself a lovely little scarf. Of course, this is no longer the scarf season so I guess it will go in the cupboard until the year's end but at least I did get another Work In Progress finished.

My scarf is slightly warped (one end is wider than the other) and the weave is tight is some places and loose in others but it was a learning project so I'll call it a success. It was fun to do but maybe not as satisfying as piecing and quilting. Maybe I like all the colors involved in quilting while this woven piece I chose to do is extremely simple and I never tried different colors of yarn. I can see doing more weaving if I tried a bit more challenging pattern but probably I'll continue to focus on patchwork and quilting.

To take a picture of my handiwork, I pulled out an old Teddy Bear that was sitting on my shelf to do the modeling honors. His name is Stumpy and he's been on the shelf since Takumi was in kindergarten. A wonderful bear because he is actually a puppet and one can put their hand into the back of him and make him have all sorts of expressions by just a tip of his head. A Teddy Bear with a lot of personality!

Unfortunately Stumpy is so old that he has lost his nose and was looking very moth eaten. I noticed that when I took the first picture so upstairs I went to find some black cloth and I fashioned Stumpy a new nose.

"Now hold still, I hate to stab your nose with this needle but it's for your own good."

And I would say a new nose does Stumpy wonders and he looks like a bear again!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

6th grade last class

Yesterday was the last English class with my 6th graders. Two of them have been coming for 6 years and while I can't say that any of them turned out to be fluent in English, they have developed a very good "feel" for English, aren't afraid of unknown words and can put together the puzzle of language to grasp a situation without really knowing what exactly is being said. I don't know if that is enough to show for 6 years of studying but at least they don't have the English "allergy" which is often contracted by students when they start jr. high (the years when English is officially taught.)

For our final lesson we did about an hour of text work just because we were so close to finishing the book and then into the kitchen we went to cook dinner! This is the class that often comes early and ends up helping me cook my evening's dinner but they had never been able to sample their efforts so last night we arranged for them to have a longer class and we made potato soup and a casserole and then ate dinner together.

It sure is a good thing that this class is so small because more people wouldn't be able to fit in my kitchen and as it was, they were bumping into each other and stepping on toes.

First chop vegetables but basically used the food processor which made it easy. Even this simple machine, which Japanese housewives use too, was an adventure for my kids. I guess none of them spend too much time in the kitchen helping their mothers.

Next simmer ground meat and onions and one boy took over that job while the others added ingredients as I instructed.

"Okay. Someone open the can of white sauce."

"Yuck! We're putting white sauce in the meat?"

"Yep. Okay use the can opener and open the can of tomatoes."

"What is this thing?" (They had never seen a can opener and truly, most Japanese use the old style leverage can opener that leaves a rough jagged edge.) "Ooh! Cool! Let me try!" (Think of how they would have reacted if I'd had an electric can opener!)

"Add the tomatoes to the meat mixture."

"Gross! We're mixing tomatoes into this pot. It looks like (un unmentionable)."

"That is beside the point. It will taste good when it is finished. Okay, here is a jar of olives. Does anyone know what olives are?" (Nope. This is an unknown ingredient in Japan. I found them in the gourmet store in the next city over.) "Now, chop those up and add them to the pot. Please give them a taste so you know what they really taste like." (that suggestion may have been a mistake.)

"Sensei. I don't think I'm going to be able to eat this stuff. The olive is horrible! It's stuck in my throat!" (a sixteenth of an olive?) "Somebody give me some water!"

"You guys sound like some of the foreigners who come to Japan and gag over a pickled plum."

"Pickled plums are great. Olives aren't edible!"

"It will be all right when it's all cooked. Believe me. Okay, now add all this cold left-over rice and mix it up."

"That's going too far. It looks ever grosser!"

"Just pour it all in the casserole dish and sprinkle it with the cheese. Now it goes in the oven and after you clean up the kitchen we can play a game."

So we played CLUE which they enjoyed and then dinner was ready to serve and eat. It was the first time for any of them to eat casserole. The first time for them to have a paper napkin (instructed them to put it on their laps). The first time for them to have grace said before a meal. They didn't know what to do with the fork not because they'd never used a fork before, but since we'd put out spoons (for the soup) they were just using the spoon to eat both the soup and the casserole.

"Hey, this is good! I can't taste that horrible olive at all!"

"I think I can, but it doesn't taste that bad anymore."

"Can I have seconds?"

I had to remind them that they needed to save a portion for Tetsu's dinner later and poor Tetsu barely had enough to satisfy him. But I was so pleased that the kids seemed to like their American meal and enjoy the cooking and the cleaning up process. (I made them wash their dishes too!) They'd brought donuts for dessert so I was able to forgo the cookies I had also planned to make.

My 6th graders have been a great class and I'm going to miss them. I hope they'll remember their brush with American culture, with the English language and with me, fondly!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Conveyer belt sushi

Our family really likes sushi and Tetsu and I often go out to eat sushi for lunch. For those of you who don't know, sushi is vinegared rice (su-meaning vinegar and shi-meaning rice) with bits of raw fish or other tidbits on it. I think non-Japanese might recognize sushi as those little slabs of raw fish on a small block of sweet-vinegared rice, but sushi can also be long rolls of rice and fish wrapped in seaweed or even just be a bowl of sweet-vinegared rice with a sprinkling of sweet egg, boiled shrimp or grilled fish, sliced cucumbers etc.

We will sometimes go to the authentic sushi restaurants and get a wonderful assortment of sushi, but one of the fastest and cheapest ways to eat sushi are at the conveyor belt sushi restaurants that abound all over Japan. Instead of ordering sushi individually, the sushi is already made and served on little dishes that go around and around on a conveyor belt past customers. The customer will just watch the dishes go past until he finds one that appeals to him and then pull it off the belt. Sort of like a smorgasbord that comes to you! The little dishes can be different colored depending on the price and one can get a small dish for as little as a dollar a plate or pay more for the more expensive morsels. One can also order from the "chefs" that are standing around and some of these sushi bars have touch-top computer screens where you just touch the picture of the sushi you want and the order goes directly somewhere and in a little while your sushi comes out on the conveyor belt (on a numbered tray corresponding to your seat so that other customers won't take it before it gets to you).

I wouldn't say this is great cuisine but it is very reasonable costwise and unlike real sushi restaurants there are also "strange" sushi such as "salad sushi" or "hamburger sushi", "deep fried shrimp sushi" and "barbecue beef sushi". These are popular with the foreigners and other people not so fond of raw fish. It is no problem to take visiting foreigners to a conveyor belt sushi restaurant because they can usually find something there to eat. I noticed there were even dishes of french fried potatoes going past me and fried chicken.

And for dessert the pudding cups and the jello bowls and even chocolate cake float by so it is easy to eat to one's heart's content. When you've had your fill, the waitress will come by and count all the dishes that are stacked on your table and then hand you a tab to pay on your way out.

Japanese fast food at it's best!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Ironing board

Nothing too interesting to show you today so I guess I'll finally get around to showing you my ironing board as many bloggers were doing last week. I had originally told Michele that I was too embarrassed to show it but she encouraged me to be proud of my small space challenges so I am showing you my "challenge".

My sewing room is large enough for a bed and a table and one shelf. This only leaves a narrow space to walk in but this is a normal Japanese size bedroom. (We say it is a 6 tatami mat size room whether there are mats in it or not) Occasionally I rearrange things to try to make more space, but space is space and what is in there has to stay so the furniture arrangement of the room seems to make very little difference in how much space I have. I've contemplated throwing away the bed that is in there (it was Leiya's bed) but since it is the only bed in the house and the only place where I can try out bed quilts, it is there for now.)

Right now my arrangement isn't the best. Bed along one wall, desk, which is now my cutting table next to it, and the sewing machine on a pull out part of the desk. Squeezed between the bed and the cutting table is a plastic set of drawers that holds all of my fabric stash and on top of that is a very small rectangular Japanese ironing board.

This little ironing board has metal legs that unfold and is supposed to sit on the floor for the ironer to work on her clothes while she sits on her knees but I no longer like sitting on my knees for long periods of time so I've put the board on my drawer. If I had just a couple more inches of space I could have put the ironing board lengthwise across but it is butted up next to the wall and between the table and bed so there is NOT MUCH SPACE TO IRON ON! The only good thing about my ironing board is that I can roll back and forth from the sewing machine to the board without ever leaving my chair to iron short seams.

You can imagine though what happens when I want to iron a whole flimsy or backing or even binding around an unwieldy quilt. I either iron 12 inches at a time or .... I use the floor as an ironing board! Yes, I just spread the quilt or whatever on the carpet (in the other room which doesn't have a bed or table in it) and get down there and iron.

For this purpose I have an absolutely wonderful iron. It is cordless! Now some people will say that a cordless doesn't keep it's heat and won't press firmly but I've had no problems and I love that it can go anywhere on the floor with me. It sits in a cradle (which heats it) and I can move the cradle to a corner of the room or in a pinch, just bring the iron from the other room for a quick press. I don't know why other Japanese housewives need a cordless iron since the ironing space is so small but mine is wonderful and I've often thought my family in America should have one. I've looked at American electric stores but have yet to find one.

I learned this week that there are drawbacks to ironing on the carpet however. I was pressing the binding onto the When-oh-When and was thrilled with my ironing skills but when I picked the quilt up off the floor... "Wait a minute. What are those marks?" I guess I forgot that the carpet isn't cotton, probably has some nylon in it, and while I've never had to directly touch the iron to the carpet before (usually a flimsy or a backing between iron and carpet) this time the iron did a pressing job on the carpet too. I think I've melted some fiber because there are definite marks there! Oh well, this is an oldish house. The carpet hasn't been in good shape for years. The iron marks will always remind me of my time doing the When-oh-When so I'm not too upset.

So there you have it, the pitfalls of small space living in Japan!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter! Actually our celebrations here in Japan yesterday were very low-keyed. Japan does not understand Easter yet and so there are no bunnies or eggs or chicks or baskets floating around (let alone Jesus and Halleluias!). Other originally western holidays have been adopted by the Japanese marketing world, but not Easter which is fine for my liking.

Christmas has overtaken Japan with decorations and Christmas cakes and some people ask me if Christians celebrate Christmas.

Valentine's day makes for a booming chocolate market and women and girls buy chocolate for any male friends or partners. There is a whole category of chocolate called "obligation chocolate", cheap and miniscule, for women who feel they have to buy chocolate for their co-workers, boss, classmates etc. even when there are no romantic feelings at all.

A completely Japanese holiday is White Day, celebrated March 14, and the males of Japan are roped into reciprocating the Valentine's day obligation chocolate with either canned cookies or white chocolate.

St. Patrick's Day gets overlooked as does April Fool's Day.

Mother's Day is a biggy and everyone is supposed to buy their mother carnations. Father's Day is just starting to catch on.

Of course no Independence Day or Thanksgiving Day or President's Day etc.

I guess that covers most of the western holidays celebrated in Japan. Of course there is a whole set of unique Japanese holidays, Girls' Day which was earlier this month and Boy's Day which is coming up in May.

Yesterday at church the children decorated Easter eggs (a first for most of the kids) and passed those out to the church members. No one really has a garden or even a yard for an Easter egg hunt and my English kids are always on spring break so I don't usually see them when Easter rolls around. One man was baptized during the church service and this is very common in the Japanese church. Baptisms are usually confined to the Christmas and Easter services. We had a simple luncheon after church and then a worship and praise service in the evening. A late dinner together which gave us a chance to get to know our new brother in Christ and his family.

And here is a picture of an Easter card that Marlene found at her church and gave to me. You may not think it very interesting but since the Christian population is still less than one percent in Japan, most Christian items are imported from elsewhere. Marlene and I both looked at this card and thought

"Wow! A Japanese looking Easter card! Will wonders never cease!"

Happy Easter to you all!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

When-oh-When finished!

Well, the big news today is that I have finished the When-oh-When quilt!

You may have noticed that I haven't been posting about it much but there isn't too much to show in the last stages of hand quilting. After quilting criss-crosses in the pieced border there was a narrow border where I quilted a rope variation pattern and then I went back and added a few more quilting stitches on the inner part of the quilt. I suppose I could still find places to quilt if I wanted to but I think this is enough and I don't want to clutter it up.

The last step of course was the binding and I chose to use Sharon Schamber's method again using glue. Doesn't that sound terrifying!? It was much easier the second time around and I have to agree that it turns out a nice binding. Of course she recommends a certain type of glue and a applicator tip both of which I can't get easily so... I improvised. Daring of me don't you think? Listen to this. I used Japanese window papering glue, the kind Japanese use to put window shades on wooden frames! Sharon said her glue was water soluable so Japanese paper glue seemed the closest. No tip available so I found a light pull bobble, drilled a hole in the glue bottle, slipped the bobble in and Ta-Da! A glue applicator! I even washed the quilt yesterday and yes, the glue residue seems to wash away. Give Sharon's method a try!

The When-oh-When is actually from a pattern I found in the April 2000 issue of the Better Home and Gardens' American Patchwork and Quilting magazine. In the magazine it is called Sam's Quilt but I gave it my own name (and that's how you've heard about it) when I wondered when I'd ever get it done.

So, here is my When-oh-When! I still need to make a label but I am unveiling it anyway. I started in August of last year and have worked pretty steadily on it the whole time (well, you know me. Lots of small projects being undertaken at the same time.)

Isn't it interesting how a quilt that you've worked on for months becomes like a member of the family? I've grown to love talking to and working on the When-oh-When!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

The living room

This week it is warming up a bit and I decided to welcome spring a little early by changing the living room around. I took off the dark, winter slip covers from the sofa and arm chair (where I sit and quilt in the evenings) and replaced them with some light colored ones. I see that even these are wearing out so I may go to have to get some new ones.

I also changed around the quilts on the walls so that brightens up the room considerably. Actually feels more like summer around here with that Hawaiian quilt up on the wall. I've written about all these quilts before so if you're interested you can find the story here. The quilt up in the entryway this month is one that I wish I could claim it as my work but it isn't. I won it in a quilt raffle a few years ago and it is beautiful!

I guess the rest of the living room isn't much to show but you get an idea of how I live and where I quilt.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Kindergarten graduation

Yesterday was graduation at the kindergarten and it brought back memories of my own kids graduating.

In Japan, graduation are a very big deal! Major ceremonies in kindergarten, elementary, and junior high. Not so big in high school or college.

Yesterday's ceremonies started with mothers and fathers arriving at the church (the kindergarten is church affiliated) and settling into the pews. This alone is different from when my kids graduated when only the mothers attended. It used to be that the raising of children was left entirely to the mother, and fathers were almost embarrassed to show an interest in bringing up children, but this has changed over the years. I was surprised yesterday to see so many fathers. (Of course, since yesterday was a holiday in Japan I suppose fathers didn't have to take time off from work.)

Most of the mothers wore dark suits though there was an occasional kimono here and there. The kindergarten teacher even wore the traditional formal wear called hakama which is a dark trouser-like garment worn over kimono. I'm not sure why hakama are considered formal wear but since it is almost always black or dark grey it lends itself to the solemnity of the occasion. Even I have learned that one always wears a dark outfit when attending graduation ceremonies. In contrast, at the entrance ceremonies which will be held the first week of April, all the mothers and teachers wear light colored outfits and look very springy!

After parents and the other kindergarten children were seated, the 34 children in the graduating class filed into the sanctuary with their teacher at the lead. No hand waving and grinning here. The doors were opened and the teacher bowed deeply and then led the children, dressed in hats and gowns, to their seats. Yes, these little kids wear graduation hats with tassels and all! The gowns have always been part of the ceremonies but the hats came into being a couple of years after my kids graduated. Already sniffling could be heard from the mothers and the handkerchiefs were brought out.

The ceremonies started and a couple of short speeches were given by the principal and the board of directors and then the kids were called one by one to the front and handed a diploma. Songs were sung by the mothers, by the rest of the kindergarten children and by the graduating class itself and another speech was given from a mother thanking the teachers for raising these children so carefully. About an hour ceremony in all. Afterwards there was a luncheon party that I declined to attend.

As years go, there weren't as many tears shed as I've seen from some of the graduating classes. I remember one year two or three little girls (these kids are only 5 or 6!) started sobbing and that set off all the mothers and then all the other kids as well as the teachers and it was a grand sea of tears! Hardly anyone could sing at all! This year the kids held up pretty well though the teacher was sobbing quite early in the ceremonies. This is the teacher's last year so she has a lot of memories to go over and in essence it was her graduation ceremony too.

Congratulations my little kindergarten class, and remember when you go out into the big world that a smile is the best way of all to communicate!

Thursday, March 20, 2008


I guess I have a lot of miscellaneous news from around here.

I started out at the kindergarten yesterday morning and had a last lesson with the oldest class of children. They too were finishing up odds and ends before graduation and a couple of the kids were working on baskets. This project has been encouraged since my kids were in kindergarten and the children bring in long lengths of fabric and they are taught to braid the strips into ropes. (Next year I'll try to get a picture of some child doing that. They sit on the ground and hold the strips or the already braided part of the rope between their toes and then braid!) At this late date, everyone has their ropes braided but some kids were still sewing the braided rope around and around to make a basket. Trying to teach 5 and 6 year olds sewing skills. Also how to handle stabbing yourself with a needle and not making a big deal of it! All the kids are so proud of their finished baskets!

After kindergarten I went out with friends for lunch. My friend (and student), Mrs. Shibahata, is moving to Germany so three of us took her out to a fancy Japanese restaurant. Such a lovely assortment of dishes! I must say, that Japan excels in making a meal look enticing and just the way it is served makes the partaker sort of excited to see what is in the box and under the covered dishes. In yesterday's meal that white tray of food is actually inside a lacquered box and the waitress carried in the box with the other layer of small dishes on top of it. Let's see, some sashimi, some deep fried dish, many vegetables, a sweet egg omelet, pickles, grilled fish, soup, rice, seaweed, salad, and for dessert interesting tasteless jelly strips that are dipped in a sweet molasses-like sauce. Everything was delicious!

Oh, and I was given a gift from my long time friends from kindergarten years. When we were trying to think of a farewell present for Mrs. Shibahata, I mentioned a wonderful compact pen that someone had given me years ago with a tiny Mikimoto pearl on the end. It was so beautiful and very small and handy but I lost it somewhere along the line. I thought Mrs. Shibahata might like it so that is what we decided to buy for her. Mrs. Kamiyama did the honors of going to the department store to buy it and she and some other close friends went in together to buy me a replacement pen for the one I lost. Wasn't that sweet of them! It has my name engraved on it so hopefully I will be able to keep track of this, or at least hopefully I've learned my lesson and will take better care of my things!

Another cute gift I was given this week was this cute little cell-phone strap ornament which I thought was so appropriate for a quilter like me! This is tiny (you can't really tell from the picture) and is made of different colored pieces of wood that have been pieced together like mosaic. Oh, go take a look at the beautiful wooden patchwork pieces that Mary's uncle made for her. They are really gorgeous but this nice little bobble is just right for me!

And here is another picture that I was tempted not to show just because you're going to say "She's started something new again!" Shelina told me I couldn't open any mail or look at any sites until I'd finished Bootiful and I am finished so one of the first things that grabbed my interest was this little stitchery from Lynette's blog. It is a Block of the Month project, so am I committing myself to 12 months? I'm not sure, but it is very small, (the embroidery is only a 2 1/2 inch block) and is a Noah's Ark theme and since I am an animal lover (as well as a Bible lover) I had to make a try. These are supposed to be rabbits though someone thought they were donkeys... We'll see how long I last on this newest endeavor.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Piano Key Border

Yesterday I got back to the Wonky quilt and started thinking about borders. I guess I've decided to make a piano key border. Sounds easy enough right? Unfortunately I realized I've never made a piano key border but it shouldn't be that difficult can it? I checked out Tonya's blog and Bonnie's blog and Elaine's blog and got a rough idea of how piano keys are supposed to look. (Of course everyone makes them differently so I was still a little vague about my plans.) Elaine had the most interesting idea of sewing strips onto telephone pages and that got my head turning.

"Hey, I've got a whole ream of computer paper from the old days sitting on my shelf. I wonder if I could use that?"

It looked like a good width to be cut in half for a 5 inch border or so, so I got out my strips bin and started sewing.

Not as easy as I'd thought it was going to be since my strips started slanting. That's okay. This is a very wonky quilt so just even them up maybe at the end of the paper. Then I realized that I really didn't have all that many strips in my bin.

Okay, get out the roller cutter, dive into the stash and start cutting strips. So that was what I did for most of the afternoon. First cut a 2 inch strip. Good. That goes in a special bin for someday's quilt (I've used these strips in a great Pineapple Blossom quilt from Bonnie's website.) Next cut a 1 3/4 inch strip and that goes in the border bin. Next cut a 1 1/2 inch strip and that goes in the 365 Challenge bin (still adding strips to the week entries) and then cut a 1 1/4 inch strip and a 1 inch strip for the border bin again. I continued along this vein and was somewhat proud of my organizational skill. Actually I didn't get much sewing on the paper done for the borders, but my heart's in the right place!

Wonky quilt, I'm back!

Monday, March 17, 2008

God Bless You

One of God's blessings to me (and my family) is that we do not have hay fever. Japan is in the throws of hay fever season and many, many of my friends and neighbors are suffering from the effects of cedar pollen during the month of March. I am amazed at how many people have allergies in Japan and the cedar pollen particularly makes people miserable. Every morning, along with the weather report, there is a hay fever report and the people who suffer, act accordingly by taking hay fever medicine, wearing masks and goggles and generally trying to stay inside as much as possible.

Hay fever really disrupts peoples' lives and many friends spend these weeks either very sleepy (from the medicine) or with boxes of tissues, eye drops, masks, nose sprays, hats, gloves, special teas, detergents, aroma therapy etc. at hand all in hopes of relieving or avoiding hay fever symptoms. Even on sunny days, the hay fever sufferers can't put their laundry out to dry or air their futons and often the conversation revolves around how miserable it is to not be able to sleep at night, not to be able to open their eyes, having to stuff tissue up their nostrils and the constant headaches and sore throats. Those of us who don't have allergies are sympathetic but probably only understand a fraction of the pain the others are going through.

I think there is even a group that is trying to sue the Japanese government because 50 years ago thousands and thousands of cedar seedlings were planted in hopes of raising the economy and now the people with allergies are having to pay through their noses! I guess the hay fever cures and treatments on the market are raising the economy in ways the government never meant but at any rate the problem is intense around here.

Unfortunately for many of my friends, I live near the largest cedar tree grove in the world but even aside from that, the mountains and forests surrounding my area are mainly made up of cedar trees. As I take Choco for a walk I can see the pollen coming off the distant forest in clouds! Sort of a light green mist covering the mountains and it might even be considered beautiful if one didn't know how much misery it was carrying. I can understand why people politely say to me,

"I'd love to see you Tanya, but I think I'll wait to visit until after the hay fever season."
(pictures from the Internet)

Of course, the scientists say that one can come down with hay fever at any time so just because I don't have it now doesn't mean that next year I won't be suffering myself!

This week I'm teaching the term "God bless you!" in all my classes and for a few more weeks it is going to be heard frequently! And God bless you whether you have hay fever or not!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Bootiful Finished!

Thank you for all your advice yesterday about putting in pictures and paragraphing. I tried the hint about using the Edit Html bar and the bracketing and it worked! Today I'm doing this post by putting in the pictures first (and backwards) and then writing. I'll see how it goes. (Except this way takes more organizational skills than I can usually muster.)

Yesterday I spent all day in the sewing room. Such a nice way to spend a day! I got caught back up on the 365 Challenge (why am I always "catching up"?) and then went to work on "Bootiful". "Bootiful" worked out beautifully! It actually looks much nicer than the picture and I am really happy with it! Thank you Cassi!

This isn't something that I would normally think of making and I don't have anything in my house like it at all but it is just wonderful with the cowboy theme. I just love the bandana colored boot and the dyed fabric flowers are so pretty! I don't think I would have even thought up this colorscheme, red and orange and black, but it is so bright and cheery.

I used fusible web on this and then machine stitched the raw edges which was a new experience all around. I am amazed that there are so many techniques that I haven't tried in my 20 some years of doing patchwork. The machine stitching started out tricky trying to get a very narrow zig-zag stitch in black around everything. Did a bit of ripping because I didn't like the black around the flowers so changed colors on that. When I got to the machine quilting I really loosened up! Just quilted around, on, and in the area I was working on and if it needed something more just went over the first stitches and added more. I like the random look!

And I'd like to boast a little about the machine quilting on the black background fabric. I quilted lines across and then went back and put squiggles here and there. My artistic version of barbed-wired fence! Tetsu says that that's stretching it a bit far but it looks nice even if no one else knows I was trying for a fence look.

The outside borders I freely quilted daisy flowers and that was the easiest part.

And finally, following Sharon Schamber's instructions for putting on binding (thank you anonymous and Patti!) I got the binding on and it looks great! It was a lot more work Sharon's way, and I got a lot of glue on my fingers (doesn't that sound interesting. Go take a look at her website) but it does turn out well. Maybe if I do it a few more times it will get easier!

Saturday, March 15, 2008


Can somebody tell me why I have so many problems getting the double spaces at each paragraph? I waste sooooo much time trying to get double spaces between my paragraphs so that the post will be easy to read but even though on the Create page I've got the double spaces (sometimes a huge block of space) on the blog it comes out single spaced.

This happens most often after I put in pictures. I first write a post, then add pictures (which always seem to end up at the top of the page) and then I pull them down to where I want them. In the process of adding pictures, the original double spaces turn into huge blocks of space so I start readjusting the paragraph spaces and then on the blog they disappear. Or if I don't adjust the spaces then the blog has huge spaces too.

I didn't notice this problem when I was still using Mozilla but when I went back to Explorer it really is aggravating and I end up playing around by trial and error.

Should I download pictures first? Should I double space after the pictures are in? Should I do a dance of "double space twice back space three times" or something? Does anyone else have this problem?

I like writing posts and I like adding pictures. Since the posts do get long, I'd like to make it as easy as possible for people to read.

Help please!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Mrs. Harada

This post may be long but I want to tell you about our very good friend and the farewell party we held for her today.

Mrs. Harada has been a good friend for many, many years and she has played an especially important part in our patchwork group. She is quiet and delicate and sensitive to things around her and to people's feelings. She does everything wholeheartedly and I have never seen her "let it all hang out". Always gentle, always caring, always helping. Mrs. Harada lives just around the corner from Mrs. Furui and daily she is in and out of Mrs. Furui's house. The two of them are very close and Mrs. Furui has mentored Mrs. Harada in patchwork, quilting, embroidery and sewing. When Mrs. Harada isn't sewing with us, she is helping at the kindergarten and is invaluable there too.

Less than a month ago Mrs. Harada called me and apologized profusely because she was moving to another prefecture and hadn't told me (or anyone else except for Mrs. Furui) about her plans. Well, this really was a surprise and my first thought was,

"Well, there goest the patchwork group. If Mrs. Harada isn't there we aren't going to be making any more quilts."

She is that important to us. Always taking home more homework than the rest of us, always accepting other people's half-done blocks to free them up for something else. Half of every quilt we make is made by Mrs. Harada's hands.

A couple days after Mrs. Harada's announcement to me, Mrs. Furui cornered me at the kindergarten and handed me a template and instructions on making a friendship block for Mrs. Harada. Great idea! But is there enough time? No matter, let's see what we can get done before Mrs. Harada moves. Spread the word to Mrs. Harada's friends that we need friendship blocks made and if possible, more than two so that we can include other non-sewing friends so that they can just sign a ready-made block.

You should see our group spring to action when called forward! 28 blocks were quickly made and then divied out to people who wanted to sign their names. We said sign, but as it turned out every block ended up being embroidered and what a beautiful array we collected!

Of course all this work was being done on the sly without letting Mrs. Harada know what was going on. That was the hard part. We'd all be together for a patchwork day and Mrs. Harada would run back to her house to get something and the minute the door closed the rest of us would pull blocks from our bags and lay them out to see how many more we needed or what colors might still be incorporated. We'd hear Mrs. Harada step back in the front door and everything would be stuffed behind boxes or even sat upon! Such fun!

Once the blocks were all collected, what to do about the off-set blocks and borders? Mrs. Furui asked Mrs. Harada to accompany her to the fabric store to get some fabric for a "niece's quilt".

"Mrs. Harada, what do you think about this fabric. Do you think my niece might like the green or the purple?"

"Oh, I just love the green. I'm sure she'd like it. And look how nice this fabric goes with it!"

("AL~RIGHT! Two fabrics chosen!") Mrs. Furui is very clever.

Earlier this week we were running short of time so Mrs. Ochiai and Mrs. Furui spent the whole day cutting blocks, sewing strips and tracing the quilting lines onto the quilt. Yesterday another completely full day of sewing with Mrs. Harada conveniently kept busy at the kindergarten all day. (The kindergarten secretary was given instructions not to let Mrs. Harada loose too early!) Mrs. Harada was told that we were working on the bazaar quilt but in reality we spent the time attaching borders and making a label!

This morning we arranged to have Mrs. Harada come to Mrs. Furui's by 12:00 for a farewell luncheon. Of course the rest of us were there by 10:00 still basting the quilt sandwich together! 10 minutes before Mrs. Harada showed up we had barely finished and the quilt was laid out on the floor ready to greet her.

"Mrs. Harada, we worked hard yesterday while you were at the kindergarten. Take a look."

As expected, Mrs. Harada sort of froze and then dissolved into tears.

"Don't get too choked up. We saved the hardest part for you. YOU get to do all the quilting and we traced some pretty complicated designs! This will keep you busy for the next few months and you may not think of us all so fondly!"

What a wonderful friend we've been blessed with and we are going to miss her terribly.

Much love to you Mrs. Harada!

Thursday, March 13, 2008


Yesterday I “chatted” with Takumi online and discovered he may have some problems that he didn’t know about.

As you know, Tetsu is Japanese. I am American. Our kids have dual citizenship. The U.S. gives citizenship to children born of American parents regardless of whether they are born in the States or not (both kids born in Japan). Of course they have Japanese citizenship because their father is Japanese. Both Takumi and Leiya have two passports, a Japanese one and a U.S. one, and until the kids were 22 it hasn’t mattered which one they use when entering or leaving either country.

BUT... by Japanese law, you are not allowed to have dual citizenship past the age of 22 and Takumi this year turns 23. This causes an interesting situation. At some point, the Japanese government is going to ask Takumi to renounce one of his claims on citizenship... if they find out. Please believe me that I am not endorsing doing anything illegal or under the table. Japan has certain regulations that they don’t really enforce.

Here is what Japanese law says.

Persons holding both foreign citizenship and Japanese citizenship (dual nationals) must, before reaching age 22 (or, if having acquired dual nationality after age 20, within two years of acquisition) choose a single nationality. If you do not choose a nationality, you may lose your Japanese nationality. Because of this, it is important to consider this issue carefully.

And here is what U.S. law says,

The Supreme Court of the United States has stated that dual nationality is "a status long recognized in the law" and that "a person may have and exercise rights of nationality in two countries and be subject to the responsibilities of both."

A solution to this dilemma well known to people with dual citizenship in Japan and/or parents of children with dual citizenship like us, is if you have two passports to just show your passport belonging to the country you happen to be entering or leaving. This way, at least the immigration officers aren't even aware that the person holds two citizenships. Even at the government offices they encourage you make a decision but the officers can't do much else.

The problem for Takumi. He forgot to renew his Japanese passport. (He could have done it at the Japanese embassy.) I think someone's going to ask all sorts of questions as to how he’s been living in the States without a valid passport if he goes to the Japanese embassy now. So he is in the States now as a U.S. citizen with no Japanese passport which is fine until he tries to enter Japan on his U.S. passport and they want to know if he is coming in as a tourist or what. He can’t say he lives here because they will want to see his Japanese passport and then want to know why he has dual citizenship when he was “encouraged” to give up one of them.

It would have been so much easier if he’d just kept his Japanese passport valid!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Family pictures

Oh dear, not to much to show you today. How about a couple pictures from the weekend. Oh well, at least Leiya and Takumi will be happy to see pictures of Tetsu and Obaachan.

I stopped in at Tetsu's office to bring him a Caramel Macchiato Frappe and donut from Starbucks (so much for any diet he might have been on.) He had told me he'd be alone most of the day so I thought I'd bring him a snack. As it turned out, there were lots of people coming in and out so he kept having to introduce me to people. I don't think wives show up at their husbands' offices very much in Japan so everyone found it very humorous that I was visiting.

Then this weekend since the weather was very nice we took Tetsu's mother out to a vegetable stand where she could buy homegrown vegetables. She claims she can no longer cook but she sure bought lots of vegetables! Tetsu's mother is very suspicious of anything edible that is grown or raised outside of Japan so she doesn't trust supermarkets. I guess sometimes she may be right since there was a big scare last month about some products that were produced in China that were laced with arsenic or something. Japan has been very wary of Chinese products since then. Tetsu's mother just says, "I told you so!" and is thrilled with a chance to buy only local produce. After shopping we sat outside and had some vegetable pancakes and enjoyed the sun.

Here are Choco, Velvet and Cleo soaking up the sun too! I don't know where Patora was. I love it when my animals seem to get along and share some camaraderie!
Doing some minimum quilting and I'll be at patchwork tomorrow but we have a secret brewing that I as yet can't show. Tune in at a later date for patchwork pictures!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

A friend's quilt

I made a short run to Mrs. Furui's yesterday and one of our patchwork friends was there getting some batting (Mrs. Furui keeps a bolt for all of us to use.) Surprise! Mrs. Orihashi has been keeping her quilt secret from all of us but the cat's out of the bag since she needed to bring it out to measure batting.

Look at this cute quilt! One reason Mrs. Orihashi wasn't eager to share this with us is because she was embarrassed to admit that she's been working on it for so long (you can tell she isn't a full time quilter since she thought she was the only one who has quilt tops and blocks in their closet for years.) She started this when her daughter was a third grader and the girl is going into high school this spring. That's not too bad. Only five years!

I love this quilt for two reasons. One because Mrs. Orihashi is such a feminine lady and her delicate embroidery shows her personality. Another reason I like this is because the quilt ended up being a joint project between her daughter and herself! I think at the beginning, the little girl just wanted to participate in the making of the blocks and while mom embroidered, the daughter made a couple blocks of her own. Look at the applique that the child did! Isn't that great? And it really shows the girl's efforts and spirit. It isn't perfect and the stitches are very obvious but that's what makes the block so wonderful!

As the years went by, Mrs. Orihashi's daughter probably decided that this was never going to get done and so she and mom chose some fun piggy fabric and cut out the pigs and the little girl stitched those on blocks too. This is just a fun quilt showing a child's interests, her fumbling fingers, and the love between mother and daughter.

I don't know when Mrs. Orihashi's quilt will be completed but I'm pretty sure there's a young girl who is looking forward to having this quilt on her bed and will someday make quilts of her own!