Thursday, July 31, 2008

Welcome home

My son has arrived home safely from his week long skateboard travels around Northern Japan. It sounded like a great trip but he seemed a little worn out. No major incidents though I think he wiped out once on his skateboard and nursed some scraped up elbows.

Takumi made quite a few stops at various cities and looked up old jr. high and high school friends that he'd heard were in the area. I'm sure they were surprised to suddenly get a phone call from him asking if he could spend the night! I guess the three major forms of transportation for Takumi were his skateboard, the local train system and on foot.

On one part of his wanderings I guess Takumi got lost on a back road of a mountain (skateboard not handy for mountain roads) and he ended up hitch hiking. In all my years of living here I don't think I've ever seen a hitch hiker. The amazing thing is that someone actually picked Takumi up, took him to their home, fed him, washed his clothes, gave him a bed and provided him with rice balls the next day! Tetsu and I about dropped our teeth! Not so much that Takumi would hitch hike, but that someone would pick him up. (And they had a teenage girl in the family!) In my mother's eyes, Takumi is a nice looking guy, but objectively speaking, the straggly beard, the pulled down knit cap, the baggy pants; they don't do a lot for first impressions. The family that took Takumi home sure must have been trusting! (I thought it humorous that once at their house Takumi linked their computer to my blog just in case they were worried about what kind of background he came from. Yeah, show them pictures of your mom's quilts and your arm around your grandma... I suppose that would relieve them of some reservations...)

Takumi explored Tetsu's hometown and then went up to the northernmost part of the main island and took a ferry to Hokkaido the north island. He went as far as Sapporo (Tetsu and I had to go there to register our marriage 28 years ago at the consulate) and then spent two days traveling back down on the local trains to Nikko, where we live. Where he couldn't find friends to stay with, Takumi slept in the stations or behind steps near the supermarkets... a taste of the homeless. As for food, his budget wouldn't allow for more than rice balls and lunch boxes from the convenience stores. All that great sea food up there and he never had a chance to taste any!

For the past two days, Takumi has crashed out. He says he's starving so I try to make a lot of food. He has hundreds of pictures and lots with himself sitting in the middle of them; he made good use of his camera's timer. Before he started, he had planned to come back, relax a couple of days and then head south on a similar trip, but I think this journey has filled him with enough wandering for awhile. He's thinking of staying home for the next couple weeks.

Thank you Lord that You directed and protected Takumi and brought generous people into his path.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008


Monday I was at the nursery school where I teach English twice a month. As a finished teaching, I noticed the children being gathered in the school yard and the teachers were carrying cameras. Always ready for a picture, I hurried out with my camera too.

These kids are carrying a handmade omikoshi. The principal explained that the nursery school had had a "summer festival" on Saturday and the kids had spent a couple of weeks beforehand making their omikoshi for the big day. Among other activities at the festival, snow cones were sold and the children did gold fish scooping (do we even have this event in other countries?) and bought water yo-yos.

So what is an omikoshi? It is actually a portable shrine and throughout Japan, different cities will have festivals and the men will carry these huge, heavy shrines on their shoulders or roll them on hand pulled floats from one end of town to the other. I think the Shinto gods are supposed to be taking a tour around the city, and there is a lot of yelling and cheering and vying for a position to be part of the throng. In different parts of Japan the festivals have evolved into fighting competitions and races and many omikoshi are wonderfully decorated and admired as they parade through the town. (I stumbled upon an real omikoshi last week when in town.)

Schools and children's groups have adopted the custom of decorating and carrying the omikoshi as part of school festivities and I remember my children being part of their classes that made and carried the omikoshi throughout the school before a talent show. The school's and the nursery school's omikoshi usually was based on a theme and was decorated accordingly.

As a Christian, I had a few qualms about my children taking part in this "religious" custom, but most often I didn't even know that there was a omikoshi involved until the day of the talent show and my kids were in the group yelling "Wasshoi! Wasshoi!" (Heave-ho!) True, the Christian kindergarten where I also teach does not practice this custom but I have come to look at the custom as a form of entertainment and I doubt any of the children involve realize the religious origins. Tetsu and I didn't think it was something we needed to draw extra attention to and it is another part of the Japanese culture that is difficult to separate from religious practices.

Back to the nursery school omikoshi. This is an ecology awareness omikoshi. As you can see, it has a "tree" in the middle and handprint leaves hanging from the trees. I think those are supposed to be fallen apples around the tree and the bottom half is decorated with drawings of what the children want to be when they grow up. A couple of the other classes had made other omikoshi but I didn't get outside fast enough to take their picture.

You might have noticed that the children have different colored caps and each class is required to wear their caps when outside. I suppose it is easier for the teachers to keep their own kids together in a group or to notice when one child is still off playing in another group when he is supposed to be getting ready to come back indoors or something.

Summer is upon us! "Wasshoi! Wasshoi!"

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Spider webs

Between the lightning storms and downpours we sometimes wake up to heavy fog in the mornings. Yesterday morning I took off on my walk with Choco (Tetsu slept in again) and grabbed my camera on the way out.

As I walked I was thinking how Tetsu should be walking with me regardless of the weather. I wasn't in a particularly good mood. Just as I got past the first trees in the forest, I noticed a spider web between the tree trunks. With all the drops of fog on it it was just beautiful. I snapped a picture of it but it didn't photograph very well. The camera focuses on the trees behind the web not even registering that the web is there. As I walked along I kept my eyes open for other spider webs that might photograph better and I was surprised at how many spiders had been busy during the night! Suddenly it seemed my world had turned into a web making workshop! Webs in the branches, webs over the bushes, webs in the telephone wires, webs between the rice stems in the field. How is it that I've missed all these before?

One reason is is because the dew drops outlined each of the threads in the web and made them sparkle this day. Another reason is because some of the webs, sparkly or not, can't be seen well against a light background, they need a dark forest behind them. Another reason is that unless I'm looking for them, some are too high up, some are too small, some I need to turn around and look at from a different viewpoint.

By the end of my 40 minute walk, I was in a very good mood and felt like I had been on God's own little treasure hunt looking for spider webs to photograph! I think I took over 50 pictures of webs, some beautiful, some ruined, a few with spiders still in them.

It made me think of the treasures all around us that we pass by without noticing even though they are there. Our hearts' lenses tends to focus on the bleakness behind the blessings. Maybe a Special nudge makes them more recognizable on a given day, maybe we need to turn around and look from a different viewpoint. Some blessings we only realize when the darkness is behind them lighting up the fragile threads of friendship or circumstance or knowledge.

“All thy threads with magic art
Have wound themselves about this heart." William Cowper

I hope I've learned to appreciate the spider webs that I usually find annoying but more than that I hope I've learned to search out God's blessings in my life and be thankful for the dark backgrounds or the teardrops that make them stand out all the more clearly.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Sewing box

I have cooled down since yesterday. The quilt is folded and sitting on a chair and I will get back to it in the near future and continue with the borders. Thank you for all of the encouragement. I guess I wanted everyone to tell me that it was alright this way. Someone else who let me know that it was alright was Choco. When I finished my ranting on my blog and went back into the living room, look who had found the quilt.

"Oh, a nice piece of cloth to sit down on."

Just plopped herself down on the part that was on the floor and pulled the rest down around her. Maybe if I had felt this was a future masterpiece then I would have had conniption fits but I just had to laugh.

Onto another subject.

After writing about teaching my students sewing I wondered where those sewing boxes Takumi and Leiya bought in elementary school went. I hunted around the bottom of the closet and found Leiya's Winnie the Pooh box. I don't know where Takumi's has gone to.

Quite a nice little box don't you think? The lid unclasps and inside there are two levels that stack together. The top level holds a pin cushion, scissors, some thread a tape measure and a magnetic pin case. The bottom level has a little storage area that can hold patterns, practice cloth and basic sewing instructions. I unfolded the practice cloth and found that Leiya had sewn on quite a few different buttons (on a picture of a crab) and had practiced a line of running stitch and a few knots. Not a whole lot of use for this very nice little sewing box but I can see how it is a good introduction instrument into the sewing world. I ought to pack this up and send it to Leiya as she might need something like this now that she is alone in a dorm and there certainly might be buttons that fall off or hems that need fixing.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Stupid me

I am angry at myself to the point of wanting to go out and stand in the lightning storm which we are having right now. I spent all morning yesterday putting my blocks for the Orange and Cherry Jubilee into rows. I had two setbacks along the way. One, there wasn't really enough room to get all the blocks out to look at what I was doing. Two, I couldn't get my printer to work so I couldn't print out all of Bonnie's instructions. But the real reason I'm angry is just because I am careless.

Ok. Got those blocks into rows. Got some of the rows sewn into larger pieces yesterday and today, for the past three hours, I sewed all the large pieces and extra rows into one big flimsy. GREAT! I am done with this for awhile until I start working on the border! The room can have the furniture returned to normal! I shall take a picture to show my blog friends. So I positioned the quilt over the piano and took a picture.

And stepped back to look at it again. And went... Wait. Something is wrong. OH NO!

Can you see it? Not just one something wrong by the way. 15 something wrongs! I amaze myself at my accuracy at managing to position exactly half of my blocks wrong! I went back to Bonnie's website and read her directions again.

"Notice how the 4 patches in the center of the spinning star blocks all go ACROSS the quilt."

Now how did I manage to miss that whole line and why is it that the first time I notice the irregularities is when the quilt is in one piece. I counted the correctly placed and incorrectly placed blocks and they are equal. If there were three blocks facing one way, for example, I was ready to go back, rip out those strips, turn the blocks around and resew. But 15 blocks? No way! So now I will look at this quilt and forever know that I messed it up. I'm folding this up and hiding it in a box for awhile. I'm too angry at myself to look at it anymore beautiful colors or not.

I know, I know. Think of it as an Amish quilt and the mistakes prove that no one but God is perfect... But honestly. Wouldn't you hit yourself over the head if you did this too!?

Just out of curiosity, how many of you would take this quilt apart and put it right?

Sewing teacher

Last Thursday my normal English class of three kids was minus the boy (he had told me he was going off with his family for the day) and so I decided to teach the two girls how to use a sewing machine. These are my kids that don't talk and don't smile much. I brought down fabric from my sewing drawers and let them choose two fabrics each for a makeshift pillowcase. I didn't have the correct measurements for fabric but since Japanese pillows are smaller anyway I guess it really doesn't matter to them.

As expected, there were no shouts of joy over what fabric they might use. Very polite, quietly claim a fabric and wait.

Ok. Help me get out the iron, the ironing board, the sewing machine, the rotary cutter, the cutting board, the ruler.

Now you iron your fabric while you cut yours to this length.

Quiet work. No chatting. No telling me when they are done, just wait for me to notice.

Ok. Now this is the way you use the sewing machine. The backstitch, the forward stitch, try going a little faster. Watch the foot so your seam doesn't slip.

Ok. Backstitch again. That's the way you "tie" a knot with a sewing machine. Then use the scissor button to cut the thread. Lift the foot from the back there. Now, why don't you go over there and iron this and then I'll show you how to use the zig-zag stitch.

I have no idea if they had fun or if it was just a trial to bear with. I MADE them smile for the pictures.

We finished a bit early and after quietly putting everything away I asked questions about their "sewing"experiences. In Japan, children have a home economics class in 5th and 6th grade. All the kids are expected to buy a sewing box and the schools hand out colorful pamphlets with 20 or so different boxes with different colorful characters on the lids. For the boys, superheros. For the girls, Hello Kitty and Winnie the Pooh etc. All the boxes hold similar things like scissors, thread, marking chalk etc. I remember Takumi and Leiya were very excited to buy their sewing boxes (expensive things too!) but I don't recall that the boxes got used much. I think boys and girls were required to make a very simple bag and I remember Leiya did a couple other projects but I think Takumi only made the bag.

I asked my girls what they were learning in home economics. The 5th grade girl politely answered that she had learned how to tie a knot at the end of the thread. Hmmm. A whole lesson learning to tie a knot? Another lesson was devoted to learning to sew on a button. Well, that seems practical. Among other lessons during the year I guess the students are given a piece of fabric and they are taught how to do a running stitch, a backstitch and another stitch that I'd never heard of and I've done a lot of sewing! My 6th grade girl said that she had made the required bag.

I can't say that any of that sounds fun. To me sewing is FUN (well, not when I'm ripping out seams). I mean that's why I do it! I have a great time! I like the challenge of seeing if I can do it. As a child I remember doing numerous embroidery projects (maybe my mother gave me a 30 second lesson on how to do a backstitch) and I know I spent a lot more time doing than I did learning.

As my girls were leaving I mentioned that if they wanted to do any other sewing someday I'd be happy to show them how to do other things... but maybe they weren't that interested in sewing (hey, I know some people are more sports minded, music minded, etc.)

One girl quietly said "Tanoshikatta." which means "It was fun."

What do you think? If I'm waiting for anyone to spin with delight I'll be waiting forever, but maybe in their own way my two girls had a good time. I doubt if either one is ever going to remind me of my offer to sew with them so I'll just have to offer again when I'm in the mood and have some extra time. How I would like to instill in these two sweeties a love for needlework!
(Dare I say it... Probably would give them more satisfaction later in life than being able to speak English!)

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Orange and Cherry Jubilee

I got to spend a day at the sewing machine and managed to finish Step 5 of the Orange Crush. It was a big step and took most of the day! But my blocks are all made, the half blocks are made, the corner blocks are made and Step 6 will be putting them all together. If I want to make the pieced border there is still fabric that needs to be cut and pieced but I'll worry about that later.

Very interesting about how fabrics change the "flavor" of a quilt. Bonnie had made some suggestions about color schemes when she presented this mystery; orange, red, black and blue were her choices. The orange in Orange Crush sounded refreshing to me and for some reason I wanted pink in there too. I bought the pink and the orange fabric while I was in the States. Once back in Japan I put the pink together with a tropical blue (still going for refreshing) and made my spinning stars. Yesterday was the first time to work with the orange but I still hadn't decided what to do for my final color. Purple? Green? Yellow? Nothing vibrant enough in my drawers but I came across a piece of this cherry fabric. Do I want cherries? Do I like cherries? Someone had given me this fabric and though the color was pretty I couldn't see me ever using it in any of my quilts (I tend towards somber) so there it has sat for a few years. Well, vibrant it is and with all that orange and pink the Orange Crush was a lot more playful than anything I've ever made before.

Gulp. Use the cherries. My blocks are finished and I'm not sure what to think. From a distance the colors are beautiful... Up close? Cherries. I'm thinking if I change the name to Orange and Cherry Jubilee that this might grow on me.

You know, if nothing else, blogging has gotten me out of my rut of similar looking quilts. Because of Roberta I made a fantasy village quilt. Because of Tonya, I've fallen in love and delight in making Wonky quilts. Because of Colleen and Anne my contributions to the bazaar quilts are fun and cheery. Because of Bonnie I've got this vibrant Jubilee growing before me.

Back to the problem of having nowhere to spread this out. I've moved the furniture and stacked tables on top of each other just to get this laid out this much. I must have a masochistic thread in me that I keep making large bed sized quilts when there is no place to spread out and see how they will come together, and in a few months I'll be trying to figure out how to quilt this thing. I already have two bed-sized flimsies with no quilting end in sight, and another one stashed in a box somewhere... I think I'll go back to making luggage tags and other small things for awhile.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Another birthday!

I'm sure you are getting tired of hearing about my family everyday, but today is LEIYA's birthday and I can't let it go by without wishing her a very happy one, especially since she is in far away Ohio and we are here in Japan.

Leiya is 19 today and though most years at least I can celebrate her birthday with her (we are usually together in California during the summer) this year our visit was in June so we're off schedule. I'm not even sure where Leiya is today. I think she has been staying at her friend's house and will be going to different people's houses until school starts. So I couldn't even send her a birthday present! Poor Leiya!

An interesting thing happened last month when I got an e-mail from someone who turned out to be the mother of Leiya's future roommate in college. I guess the college had contacted the girls and given them each other's name and the mother of the other girl Googled Leiya's name and came up with my blog. The mother was nice enough to introduce herself and I told Leiya I had had contact with her roommate to be.

"Oh no. You mean she read about me on your blog?! Mom, you didn't say anything nice about me this summer! You only wrote about the problems I caused! (Letting the dog chew up her money, leaving the room a mess, not getting around to writing thank you notes.) She'll think I'm a terrible person!"

Let it be known that Leiya is a wonderful person! These past three years away from us she has overcome a lot more language, cultural and relationship challenges than I ever did, and she's managed to stick with her goals without giving up! Pretty good for a 16 year old girl (when she first went to the States.) In the past few months she has handled all the contacts with her college, with banks, with scholarship boards, with student aid by HERSELF, making phone calls and explaining her situation of having her parents in a foreign country. I know that countless people have helped her along the way, but at the very least, Tetsu and I have only been able to give her moral support and tell her that she'll have to work things out alone. I would say that she has been thrown into being independent and realizing how life works (how are we going to pay tuition?) whether she wanted to know or not and she has BLOSSOMED beautifully! I could never have been so mature at age 19!

This is a quilt I made for Leiya last year and I chose some of the words that I thought described Leiya well. (You can see what some of Japanese words mean if you click on the link.)

Leiya, we are very proud of you and think you are wonderful!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Living vicariously

As mentioned yesterday, Takumi is off traveling around northern Japan this week. Sunday we got together with Tetsu's mother for lunch and Monday he left with his skateboard to explore his roots. (Tetsu's hometown is in northern Japan and Takumi was born there too.) I don't know when he'll be back but thanks to cell phones I don't worry too much since I know we can get in touch with him if we need to.

Ah, to be young... Last week, Takumi spent a couple interesting days with his friends from jr. high school days and in the evenings he would share his adventures with me. He had some great pictures but I forgot to have him download any of them into my computer. One day he went paragliding! There is a paragliding take off area not far from us and for a minimum fee one can get flying instructions in the morning and then take off and fly in the afternoon! I was suprised since I thought more hours of instruction would be required but Takumi came home with pictures of his flight! Not only pictures, smart boy hung his camera around his neck, pushed the video button and then soared into the air! What fun for me who will probably never do any paragliding! True, half-way through the flight his camera flipped over and we could only see his shirt, but there were 9 minutes of conversation (by wireless) of Takumi and his instructor (on the ground) while Takumi glided over the hills and I did get to see the take-off and landing!

Another day, Takumi and friends took off in the middle of the night and climbed a very tall mountain near us (nearly falling off the cliffs in the process) in time to see the sun rise from the mountain top. I doubt I'll ever make that climb either so it was interesting to see that there is a Japanese sword stuck in a rock on the top of the mountain (King Arthur?) Sorry, no pictures of that today either.

In the past three days, Takumi has met up with MY old friends in the city that he was born in. He was trying to find the apartment that we lived in until he was three.

"Find the main street behind the station and if you walk long enough there should be a camera store. The owners were always very nice to me and the husband liked to carry you around on his shoulders. They should remember me (the foreigner) even though they won't have any idea who you are."

Sure enough, Takumi found the store, introduced himself and it sounds like they had a fun reunion. I had a chance to talk with the wife briefly for the first time in 20 years on Takumi's cell phone!

And last night we had a very large earthquake in Japan (I slept through it) and when I woke up this morning all the news on TV is about the earthquake damage in NORTHERN JAPAN! I am concerned about all the people up there, but I did want to know where my son was since he was headed in that direction last I'd talked to him. Gave him a call on his cell phone this morning before 7:00 and he sleepily answered and said that yes, he had been at the heart of the earthquake and yes, he was fine and was camping out at a friend's house. I let him go back to sleep. I'll hear details later. Another page in Takumi's Japanese travels chapter. I think he's stranded there now as according to the news the trains aren't going to be running for awhile. I wonder how far he can get on that skateboard.

Children sure give their parents an interesting viewpoint on life!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Just do it

I finally got out thread and needle yesterday. I've been looking at my flimsies for weeks thinking I should get at least one of them to quilting stage, but never getting beyond the thinking stage. I needed to think about quilting lines. I needed to add a bit more border, etc. etc. Procrastination.

"Oh, to heck with it. Just do it!"

Grabbed the backing I'd bought in the States for the Wonky Love quilt. AARRGH!! I didn't buy enough! I've done it again! I miscalculated the amount of fabric I need! I could have hit my head against a wall! And I'd spent so much time just finding the perfect backing! Was this quilt going back in the cupboard or was I just going to do it no matter what the setbacks? I dove back into the drawers and there was some gorgeous fabric that Liz had sent me, and it was extra wide! Even that alone wasn't enough for this quilt, but if I combined...

"Let me see... Mary had a tutorial for making an off center 4 patch backing..."

I searched that out on Mary's blog and followed directions and though the two widths made for an even more off-set backing, it did turn into one backing! Kind of pretty colors and with the top so hodge-podge and colorful the pieced backing may even be better than the soft yellow I'd planned.

Next to baste the thing. Not going to use safety pins because I already had decided that this was just too big to push around under the sewing machine. And with hand quilting I really feel more comfortable using a hoop and the safety pins don't work well with the hoop.

Oh dear. The room is too small for the quilt. Did that mean that I was going to fold everything up and wait until I could use Mrs. Furui's larger room? No. That would mean more delays. JUST DO IT! Spread out as well as I could. Get out the wrinkles but that wasn't as easy as said. Spread out the batting. Spread out the flimsy. Very tight fit on the batting. More trying to get the wrinkles out (while walking on the quilt as there was no floor space left to walk on.)

At about that point Takumi came in looking like he wanted me (he was also stepping on the quilt trying to get to his computer and find clean socks.)

"I know. You want me to take you to the station."

(He was headed out for some traveling around Japan.)

"No, no. You look very busy. I'll ride my skateboard to the station. Just came to say good-bye."

"Listen. You help me spread out this quilt and get the wrinkles out of it and I'll take you to the station. Fair enough?"

So my son did his first (and probably last) bit of quilt maneuvering.

"You spend more time doing your quilting hobby than anyone I know."

"Well, sorry about that. I have friends who do more you know. It's not like I just sit around quilting all day."

I was feeling a bit testy because of all the wrestling with the quilt.

"No. I didn't mean it that way. I meant that you have a great hobby and it is nice that you are so devoted to it."

"Thank you. I'm sorry I snapped at you."

Between Takumi and myself we got the quilt all laid out nicely and warning the cats not to dare think of having a cat fight on my laid out quilt I left it and took Takumi to the station.

Back at home I spent about an hour basting and by evening my quilt was ready to be quilted. I've decided to stitch-in-the-ditch around all the letters and worry about the white spaces later on. It is MUCH too hot to be quilting and yesterday evening I sat in front of the electric fan to put in the first stitches but I may resort to the air-conditioner pretty soon. Should I lay this aside until it gets cooler? JUST DO IT!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


Today is Tetsu's 55th birthday.


(he does check my blog while he's on his lunch hour.)

Started off the day with a walk which Tetsu has gotten slack about the last couple weeks. MADE him get up this morning saying it was for his own health to do a little exercise with me every day. I don't know if that's a good birthday present or not.

Came home to read the newspaper and watch the news and I laid my birthday present in front of him which he didn't notice for a few minutes. I have gone shopping for Tetsu a couple of times over the weeks but there is NOTHING that this man needs or wants. Sort of sad really. He has no hobbies, he has nothing he really looks forward to doing on his very minimal free time. Other men like cars or sports or carpentry or electronics or drinking or traveling or something. But I couldn't think of a thing that Tetsu likes to do. He watches a lot of TV but we have a TV. He occasionally goes to a spa and I've bought season tickets for that before but I think he still has some tickets left-over from the Father's Day present I gave him. Just no time to go.

So my present to Tetsu? A buckwheat hull pillow! Big Thrill! But he likes to sleep when he can and he has a grungy pillow that was weeping buckwheat hulls just because of its age. I knew enough that Tetsu only like buckwheat hull pillows so that's what he got. A replacement for the old one.

As for this evening. No big dinner planned because Tetsu announced he will be late (as always) and I shouldn't wait up for him. I guess I won't see him again until I wake up and find his head on the pillow.

Monday, July 21, 2008

More critters

It is a cool day for the first time in weeks. Some rain yesterday and a mist is hanging over the rice fields. Yesterday I showed you beetles, today how about some frogs.

Because we live behind the rice fields we get a lot of frogs! Also snakes but I won't scare you off with pictures of those. The snakes live off the frogs, the frogs live off the mosquitoes, the mosquitoes live off of me... In the chain of life, I'll take the frogs. Frog carcases splatter the roads around here which is also a part of life and death, but a few frogs make their homes in my hydrangea bushes. A hydrangea leaf must be a great place for a frog to live. They settle into the leaf dip and nap away the hot hours or they hide under the protection of the upper leaves when it is raining. There are large frogs (toads) that swim and live in the rice fields and they make a lot of racket. There are tiny brown frogs that are no bigger than a bee and they are speedy and hard to catch.

My favorite frogs are the little green ones, and they will allow themselves to be caught and will sit calmly on your finger. They also will attach themselves to the windows near a light and wait for bugs to come their way. I've had a few "pet" frogs (knownst only to me) that have lived on my kitchen windows during the summer months and I loved seeing their soft undersides and the suction cups on their toes. Tetsu isn't fond of frogs (or snakes) but I don't mind picking them up and putting them outside when they accidentally make their way into the house (and escape notice from the cats!)

Ok. Maybe you don't like frogs, so how about some flowers to relieve you of any shudders you've had over the amphibians.