Sunday, August 31, 2008


More rain in the afternoon and evenings. All of us stay cozy in the house but nobody gets much exercise.

So...I'm quilting the bazaar quilt. And Chip is helping. She likes to climb up on my shoulder and watch awhile before diving in to catch the thread or just falling asleep. I don't need a muffler at this time of year and probably when it gets cold she'll be too big to sit on my shoulder but I'm flattered to be chosen as an acceptable kitten perch.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Clouds and rain

For the past week we've had rain almost everyday and in the evenings and at night the lightning and thunder have shaken our teeth! I don't mind thunder and lightning but Cleo cowers under the sofa and when the house starts shaking the other cats go running too.

My part of Japan certainly isn't lacking in water! In fact there has been flooding in the next city over and every day the news lets us know when we can expect the next deluge. In June we are in the rainy season and it rains everyday. In August we have lightning storms. Next month it will be typhoons.

Yesterday evening I took Choco for a walk and noticed the beautiful clouds billowing over the hills. Southern California doesn't often get these nimbuses but they are often seen in Japan during this season. I ran back and got the camera but within half an hour the sky had turned dark and the rains had started again. The night was filled with flashes and crashes but at least my neighborhood is none the worse this morning. The rice fields were overflowing onto the roads and into the stream but the temperature has cooled off a bit.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Quilting interference

I'm quietly quilting the bazaar quilt but I've run into a "couple" of problems.

As Tetsu says, cats and kittens sure fit right in with quilts. The minute I sit down to quilt Chip decides that it is a great place to play or take a nap. Play means tangle yourself up in the thread and see if you can catch the needle. Extra points if you can bite the thread in two before getting put back on the floor. Velvet agrees wholeheartedly with quilt and cat decor and between the two of them I am not getting much quilting done. I can't bear to move these two when they claim my quilt as their place of rest!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Radio Exercises

This morning Tetsu and I were just coming back from an early morning walk with Choco when we came across a group of parents and children gathered around a tape recorder.

Oh good! Radio Exercises! I had just been wondering if this custom has gone completely out of style and was thrilled to see that it is alive and well. I raced home to get my camera and joined the group for 5 minutes of health and community unity.

At 6:45 the group had assembled and the father in charge turned on the tape recorder and we all started swinging our arms and bending our knees in rhythm to the music. From the youngest child to the elderly grandpa to even little ol' foreigner me, we all knew what to do! That's how ingrained Radio Exercise is in Japanese culture. The music begins and like Pavlov's dogs we all start our synchronized movements!

Radio Exercise was introduced to Japanese citizens not long after the radio itself became public but it didn't become a national custom until after WW II. To bolster the Japanese morale and bring unity to the people after the war, the Japanese government introduced Radio Exercise as part of their education and health reconstruction program although the US Occupation banned it for a time as being too militaristic.

When I first came to Japan, you could often hear Radio Exercises music wafting from neighbors' houses and people would be standing in front of their houses waving their arms oblivious to anyone else around them. When taping became popular the Radio Exercises were brought into the companies and schools and before work or classes began everyone would line up and do the 5 minute routine together. It is very simple, very non-strenuous, just loosen up the joints a bit, and recently the routine has been adapted so that even the elderly and people confined to wheelchairs can do a similar form of stretching and waving.

When my kids became school age, the school and neighborhood collaborated during summer vacation. The schools gave out little cards while the community leaders arranged for someone to daily lead the children in the exercises every morning. After the exercises the children would get their cards stamped to prove they had joined in the activities and it was a point of pride to see if you could get perfect attendance. My kids were always quite sad that they only got a few stamps on their cards because we were usually in the States during Radio Exercise month.

This morning's neighborhood children finished their exercises and gathered around the mother who stamped all their cards for them. It seems that nowadays the program is only encouraged during this last week of summer vacation and for the past two days it has rained, so today was the first day for any of the kids to have a chance to get their cards stamped. Still, for them to get up by 6:45 at all is pretty good I think!

Well, no one gets very much exercise but Radio Exercise is a custom of Japanese summer!

I got a good laugh over this rough English translation of part of the Radio Exercise routine!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Bazaar Quilt

Japan has been rainy this past week and we've been relieved from the heat somewhat. Nice for quilting that's for sure! Yes, I am quilting. In the evenings when Tetsu and I were watching the Olympics, I've been quilting the bazaar quilt that my friends and I pieced. Our quilt was making the rounds during the months of June and July and it came to my house this week. I think I'll keep it another week and see how much more I can do. All stitch-in-the-ditch so it is easy non-thinking quilting. This means my Wonky Word Love quilt has been relegated to a corner again but the bazaar quilt needs to be finished by the beginning of October so this takes priority.

And in honor of Chip's christening I made Chocolate Chip cookies yesterday. Too bad she can't enjoy them. Well, the rest of us will!

Monday, August 25, 2008


Introducing Chip.

We're thinking of chocolate chips here, not potato chips. Since we have the dog Choco, we hope that by naming the kitty Chip, the two will eventually get along together. And no, please don't even suggest that there might be a Dale in the future...

The first picture was taken the day after she came to us, and the next picture is of Chip settled happily on one of my quilts. I woke her up from a nap.

I found a cage at the recycle shop and Chip is living in there when Choco is out and about the house and then Choco goes into a similar larger cage when we let Chip out of her place of refuge. Sort of like the changing of the guards (and remember I'm locking the front door whenever Choco is out too.) Both cages have quilts over them and I wrap them both in color and love each night.

Velvet and Cleo have accepted Chip's presence but Patora is still not happy. Chip finds the world very exciting and everything is a toy. I admire the way this small animal adapts to its surroundings. No hanging on to loneliness or bitterness or wondering why life is going one way or another. Just jump in and and explore. Lessons to be learned everywhere for both me and Chip.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Woven quilt finished!

Goodness, this poor kitty still hasn't got an official name. That's because we decide on one, tell the kids, use it for the day and say "Aww, that's not right." Why am I always thinking something perfect is just around the corner if I just wait long enough... The picture isn't great but can you see the kitten playing there under my quilt hoop? Makes quilting difficult but she seems very happy.

I finished my Woven background quilt. The weaving was easy, the fusing was easy. Choosing the applique pattern took some time but I finally came across a June 1997 Better Homes and Gardens American Patchwork and Quilting magazine and found the watering can pattern and fused flower directions. With all the fusing in the weaving I thought it was appropriate. There were more variations of flowers in the magazine but I stuck with the one type of flower.

Made flowers one day and fused a couple to the background along with the watering can and leaves. Then got on the sewing machine and quilted. With all that fusing in there the quilt was quite stiff which I'm not sure made it easier or more difficult to quilt but anyway a different feel. I decided I wanted more "fun" than just a zig-zag stitch up and down the curved lines so I started doing squiggles and circles with some variegated thread. My control isn't very good and the stitch size would jump from tiny to long. I really should take a class someday. Still with all the crossing and movement one can't tell too much and it did add some character to the background. I hope it will hold down the edges (that was the purpose in the first place!)

Next tacked the flowers onto the quilt "artistically" and sewed them down with a button in the middle. Raided my button box! I don't know why I had so many red and pink buttons. The tacked on flowers are double sided and they push away from the quilt a bit making it somewhat dimensional.

All in all a fun project that brightens up a corner. If I do this again I'd like to try some dyed background that is more subtle and mysterious like Liz's. She's working on her applique now and I'll give you an update when she gets done. It has been a nice to have a faraway mentor and friend and get to see what Liz can do with the same ideas.

Oh, a couple people wanted to link to Blurb for blog book making so I'm posting it again. It is kind of embarrassing to have my own book in my hands (I haven't even shown it to Tetsu!) but it makes me smile to riffle through it.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Various news

Okay, bit of this and that again.

More animal problems. Choco bit one of my English students. No real damage and she didn't break the skin. The boy's grandmother is my friend and knows Choco so she doesn't hold it against us. There was NO English that day and I'd let Choco inside thinking that we had a free afternoon. The little boy forgot and he came scampering into the house as he usually does (I tell the kids to come on in because I can't be answering the front door each time one arrives.) Choco was sleeping near the sofa and they met head on. The boy was scared, the dog panicked and attacked. Furniture was upturned. I came running out of the other room yelling and rescued the boy and dragged Choco to her cage. The bite did not break the skin but there were teeth marks. The little boy didn't cry but was really scared. I took him home and apologized profusely. I hauled Choco to her kennel outside and left her there for the night with no dinner. I went back yesterday to make sure that the little boy was really all right and apologize again. He was fine yesterday and there weren't any marks left (except in his heart?). I promised him and his family that from now on whenever I let Choco into the house that I will lock the front door. I know I have a dog that doesn't like strangers and I've tried to be very careful to make sure she is either outside or in her cage when the English students are here. I guess I need to be even more careful.

On the good news side of my life my blog book arrived! It is not very big so cost wise it doesn't look like much. If I were buying a book this size, 30 pages, I might pay $10. It cost $30 to make (plus international shipping) but this it is made of heavy paper and the pictures came out very clear. I set the pages with a soft pink flower theme and "handwriting" font so it has a cozy feel. Yes, to have an physical account of one's blog I think it is worth the cost. I think I figure if I make a book 400 pages that the cost will be about $80 so my trial attempt wasn't particularly a thrifty way to go. I should have had more pages in it for the cost. (It is not a dollar per page). So I will be working on making a book of the 2007 blog and we'll see where that leads. No immediate plans to order that though just spend time some making it.

And this week I had a chance to visit with a young foreign student from Germany here going to a high school in the next city over. Seena, is only 16 and will be in Japan all together for a year. I really admire her for coming to a country where no one knows any German and even the English that may be used is a second language for both parties. Also amazed that she's only been studying English for 5 years and yet she is so fluent! Japanese will study English for years and years and not be able to carry on a steady conversation. I ought to go get some German English language curriculum. Someone taught Seena well!

And here is our kitten helping me machine quilt. Getting closer to a name but I want to try it out on my kids before I announce it here. Velvet, our oldest cat has accepted the little one but our Cleo and Patora are still wary. Hey you guys, you all started out the same way in our house!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Woven Backgrounds

I'm back. Thank you for your comments. I really needed that confirming that I've done the right thing and that this is a blessing and not the beginning of an onslaught. I decided to make a conscious effort to get back into the world. Took Choco for a walk, visited with friends. I am enjoying the kitten but still contemplating names. I've given all your suggestions to Tetsu but he doesn't seem to want to play the name game and is leaving it to me.

Hey, the two days of self imposed confinement meant that I sewed. Well, fused. I'm still in the fusing stage. The woven background was a lot of fun to make and very easy. BUT it doesn't really lend itself to traditional quilting nor combining with other types of blocks. It seems to be in a class itself and for people who do applique it makes a very interesting background. Oh dear, I'm hoping Liz won't mind if I post a couple of pictures here.

In July, Liz (Artfilstitch) sent me the book called Woven Quilts. Actually, Liz sent me a whole box of fabric back in June and I had a chance to talk with her for about an hour while I was in the States. Anyway, Liz and I decided to try making a woven quilt simultaneously and see what we could come up with. We decided to do the easiest project in the book and picked out colors and shared our choices by e-mail. I chose the orange and yellow, Liz picked out some lovely blue and green dyed fabric. Then we both stepped in.

When I was done making my background I could only say that I'd certainly never made anything like this before and it was quite beyond my creative sense. My background seemed much more whimsical than the example in the book and Liz said she wasn't quite sure what to do with hers either. I loved her colors and wished I'd gone for more of the variegated feel too. However neither of our backgrounds seemed to go with the rest of the book pattern so from here we've diverged. I'm working on some fun flowers and Liz is working on an intricate fish applique.

My fused flowers are just sitting on there right now and I think Liz is doing her applique this week. I need to sew down the edges of the woven fabrics before attaching the flowers so I will be at the sewing machine today zig-zagging or free-hand stitching.

Summer vacation is almost over so I'd like to get this up on the wall as proof of some productivity this past month! Off to the sewing room I go. Think I'll introduce the kitten to my favorite room.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


Right now I am in a slump and I know exactly the reason why and I know it is not reasonable and I know I will be out of it in a couple of days. I hate to think I have a phobia but I do and I don't even know what kind to call it! Right now I am angry with the world in general, my stomach is tied in knots, I am afraid to go out of my house. I am even a bit angry at God for throwing this problem into my life when I have asked Him not to. And it is a small problem. I know that. The advice from a friends is to forget it, close your eyes, don't get yourself worked up, stop thinking that a storm of similar problems is coming your way. It could, but it probably won't.

So, do you want to know what has turned my life upside down in two days. If you know me pretty well (my kids if they read this will know immediately. I hate that too. That I am so predictable) you will know we have a new animal in the house. I don't even understand why I can't be happy about this. I love animals! And it isn't even having a new one that bothers me. It is the unreasonable fear that if I give in to one then I will give in to the next and the next and the next one that comes my way.

Last week a kitten was killed on the small road not far from my house. I didn't know it had been there and I don't know if I would have helped it if I had known. Sometimes I hurry away in another direction if I see or hear a dog or cat that needs help. I hate myself for that too. I know that dogs that go to the pound are put down in four days. Tetsu and I no longer call the pound if a lost dog is about. I also know that cats are put down within 24 hours. There is no cat rescue system. So it is hopeless to take cats to the pound. If we ignore them they have a slim chance of living through the dangers of traffic or starvation or crows and eating frogs to stay alive.

Anyway I have been sad about the kitten that I never knew dead on the road. But I can't change that and I can't go around feeling guilty because someone else left it in the forest to fare for itself. The creeping feeling of sadness I've managed to keep at bay and I've concentrated on other things. Thank you Lord. Help me to accept the things I cannot change.

Then Monday evening after I'd put Choco in the house, a sudden soft mewing, barely distinguishable from the crickets chirping in the forest and the crows cawing overhead. But the cats knew and they flew to the windows and ran up and down the stairs, and in a panic I went to the window. There next to Choco's doghouse, just next to the fence, a small grey-brown ball making as much noise as it could. A tiny kitten. What could I do? I know. I should close the window or get in the car and drive away and hours later it would be gone, probably into the woods alone, maybe carried away by a crow. But I can't. I called Tetsu. I sobbed that there was a kitten outside the window and immediately he said. "Ok. If it's in the yard see if you can catch it. It's okay. Don't get upset about it."

It wasn't a matter of if I could catch it, it was trembling and wouldn't move. I scooped it up and put it in a cat transport box (the same one I'd carried Lemi in in February. I noticed I hadn't changed the towel in it.) I couldn't really even look at the poor thing. I'd picked it up. Until then it wasn't mine but since I'd reached out to it, now it was. Slip some milk into the box. It sat in the bowl not knowing what to do. I sat in my chair not knowing what to do.

Tetsu came home within the hour and bounced into the house cheerfully. "Where is the little thing? Let's see the new family member!" He proceeded to clean it up and feed it with a syringe. "Three cats, four cats, it doesn't matter. Cheer up. We'll all be living happily together in a couple of weeks." I wonder about that. Cleo and Patora have not come down once and won't eat. Vel is concerned enough to check out the stranger but hisses and bats at it. Choco I'm afraid to let anywhere near it. One gulp and that would be the end and remember Choco doesn't like cats. So my life has gotten very complicated overnight.

Yesterday I took the kitten to my vet. Ah... he says knowingly. He has scolded me before about trying to save all the pitiful animals that come by my house. His thinking is that I can't expect to save all of them, that I need to set a limit in my mind. He thinks people know I have a soft spot and that's why they leave animals near my house.

Our little one is a girl. Very healthy. Maybe 6 weeks old. Not very good at drinking milk or eating cat food but can lick off the milk that she sits in. She's been given worm medicine and been disinfected from fleas and ticks that she might have picked up but I don't think she was out in the big world all that long anyway. She's still living in the cat box until I can make more of a home for her. She has no name yet.

As for me, suddenly all the noises I hear in the forest are more mewings. All the movement it the bushes are more animals searching for my house. All my own animals' sudden starts or turns or barkings are the result of a sound or sight that I can't discern. I look out the windows but I'm afraid to go out for fear of what I'll find. I peer at people walking past my house and wonder if they are the ones who left the kitten or know who did. I'm angry at people who throw out their unwanted animals and know that this is not so unusual in Japan. Even my neighbors do it. They are not bad people they just don't find newborn kittens and puppies much more than a nuisance so throw them away. Maybe the animals will be lucky enough to be picked up by someone like me. But where does that leave me? You see, I am beyond this one little kitten that found its way to (or was dropped into) my yard.

And something even more ridiculous is that in less than 24 hours I have lost my heart and do not want to find a new owner for it. That's the other problem. The animals I pick up I cannot let go even if there is someone that might take them (there hardly ever is). I picture myself sitting in an overstuffed chair with hundreds of cats and dogs perched everywhere in the house and people talking about that nutty cat and dog lady. But right now I'm not laughing.

So... We have a new family member. Trying to think of names. I need to go change my blog profile back to "I live with my husband, 4 cats and a dog."

Monday, August 18, 2008


Leading a quiet life the past few days and I really don't have too much to show you. Quilting on the Wonky Word is going slowly but steadily. No more decisions about the woven background quilt.

So yesterday I took a walk with Choco. Just like I do everyday twice a day. We have had some torrential rains and my schedule gets a little messed up (even Choco doesn't want to go out in the rain!) but yesterday afternoon it cleared enough for us to wander around the rice and corn fields. How about some green Japanese scenery?

I am often amazed at the number of different shades of green that can be seen just a few steps beyond my house. So refreshing to the eye! And the mist rising from the mountains and hills surrounding us look like someone took an eraser to the sky. In the distance there is a pig farm and a dairy farm and just before that some farmer's family grave. It occurs to me that this is a common sight all over Japan that one doesn't see in America at least. Behind a house or on a street corner, or like this, in between the fields there will be a few graves sticking up. They are part of the scenery and don't seem especially grim or scary.

This week has been the week of Obon when the spirits of the ancestors are supposed to come back to their home for the week thus all the relatives gather to visit the grave together and celebrate. The house is cleaned to welcome spirits (and others) and special food is cooked. It is actually sort of a happy time for the family and around here, if the day is nice a simple lunch of rice balls may be taken to the cemetery and the family will enjoy a picnic and the verdure of summer.

And I took a similar green picture last year too but I wanted to show you again the beautiful flooded lotus field with the huge green leaves and pink and white flowers sticking up from between them. How I love the Japanese scenery!