Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Thank you for all your hard work

Tetsu was reading the newspaper and I thought this was an interesting advertisement. The picture just seems very Japanese to me. I'm sorry if my picture of a picture isn't very clear. I spread the newspaper on the floor but there was window glare.

Today is March 31 (in Japan). The Toshiba company formally announced this month that they would no longer be producing incandescent light bulbs anymore. 120 years ago (according to the ad) Toshiba introduced the light bulb industry to Japan and so they have a conviction that Toshiba should be forefront in the energy saving frontier. From April 1st Toshiba will exclusively be making only LED light bulbs in cooperation with Japan's policy on saving energy.

So the picture in the newspaper struck me because it seemed like a turning point in history. And if you look closely at the line of uniformed workers in front of the machine line, you will see that they are all bowing to the machines. This is not a picture that has been set up. This is really a group of workers expressing their thanks to the machines!

In Japan there is always a beginning and an end. For impatient me, this has always been hard for me to understand. The school years begin with ceremonies and pledges for hard work. It ends with formal thanks for all the connections and relationships made. Always a lot of speeches, a lot of bowing, a lot of somber looking people standing at attention.

Factories, classes, hospitals, any workplace begins with "Morning Greetings", announcements from the day before, pledges to do your best, everyone there and accounted for. In the factory on the other side of the forest from me I can hear the radio blaring out "Morning exercises" as part of the workers "Morning Greetings" assembly. They do simple calisthenics in the parking lot...

The end is just as important. A passing on of responsibilities to the next person in line, an honoring of the duties completed and an acknowledgement of the wear and tear that the person (or in the case of the Toshiba machinery) endured.

Tetsu even pointed out that Judo practices begin and end with formal bows at the doorway to the gymnasium.

"I will be connected to you for this time period." "Thank you for giving me the opportunity to be here."

As an American, or maybe just a casual Southern Californian, this has always seemed to me to be a lot of hullabaloo. Let's just start! Forget the speeches. Okay, we've finished! I don't need the flowers and the formal clipped bows.

In this picture of the machinery being laid to rest the workers bow as a way to say "Thank you for all your hard work. Otsukare sama deshita. Progress moves on but we won't forget."

Even though we are in spring vacation, all the children are going to school today. It is the official day to say goodbye to the teachers and faculty at the school. Some teachers are retiring, some are being transferred. The children are encouraged/required to gather at the appointed time to listen to speeches, bow formally and acknowledge the connections that have been made.

"Otsukare sama deshita." "Thank you for all your hard work."

Tomorrow is a new beginning.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010


It snowed yesterday! Again... And even when it doesn't snow, it is cold around here!

I took my camera on a walk yesterday morning and the fields were dusted and the air was filled with snowflakes. I'm ready for spring!

House in 2007

House in 2010

Tetsu and I went past this old house and though I see it daily it did seem to me that it was falling more and more into disrepair. I checked back to blog posts three years ago and yes, here is this house in its better days, but not much better. Tetsu thinks the house will stand another year or so just because it is leaning on a bunch of trees... I think one good earthquake or typhoon and it is gone.

This is the house where the man fell into the well and managed to live a week one winter. I probably walked past him a few times and never noticed him down there... (The well has since been filled in.)

Tetsu and I wonder if the herons are late coming back this year or if they've decided to move someplace else. There are a few around but nothing compared to the air congestion that went on last year. But I found a heron egg along my walk route. Heron eggs are pale blue and about the size of a chicken egg. I don't know if they fall out of the nests or if the crows carry them off but occasionally there will be heron eggs along the road.

And I also found a bird's nest on the ground. (but definitely not a heron's nest. They are huge!) It must have gotten blown out of the tree in one of the storms. I don't know what bird made it, but God sure did give it the instinct to weave something perfect.

Saw a beautiful iridescent pheasant too but he ran off before I could take a picture.

I feel like I'm on a treasure hunt every time I go for a walk.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Therapy Fish

The swimming pool that I go to most evenings also has a hot spa on the other side of the building. And along the walls are posters of various events that are going on during the month. There has been an interesting poster that Tetsu and I couldn't figure out.

"Therapy Fish".

So I asked. "What is a Therapy Fish?"

And the lady at the counter invited me into the spa area to see for myself. "WHAT?"

Yes, that is my foot. And if you look closely you will see the "Therapy Fish". And what do Therapy Fish do? They are supposed to be very good at "eating" the dead skin from your feet. I definitely am glad I am not a therapy fish.

The spa provides benches surrounding a fish tank and people dabble their feet in the water. The fish swim furiously to the toes and heels and slurp up a meal.

When I stuck my foot in the water all the little fishies seemed very "hungry" and latched onto me immediately. Look at that one little guy being pulled out of the water! He was not about to let go! I wondered if therapy fish all have dreams of growing up to be piranhas?

I couldn't get my foot in any farther than this because therapy fish tickle! I let them slurp at my heel for a second so that I could take my picture but that was as much as I could handle. There was also a handmade sign nearby that said "Don't step on the fish" so I was afraid to put my foot down.

I don't think this is going to be a booming business. The little guys are cute and I guess they don't need to be fed (other than your foot) but this is a tactile treat I don't need again.

And I didn't even like pedicures.

Sunday, March 28, 2010


We are on our last step of the Mini Round Robin!

Instruction number 11 (I think) -- Put on binding.

A quilt came to me. My job is to put on binding... Hmmm. Lots of nice circles in this quilt. How about trying something new?

Don't you love how I experiment with other people's quilts? I had some great striped fabric in the right color and right away figured it would make nice bias binding resulting in diagonal lines. Well, if I'm going to make bias binding anyway why not try some curves to tie in with all the circles?

Maybe I should have been gentler with my curves. On the other hand, if nothing else this quilt is interesting. This is so far away from whatever the original person had in mind that at this point whatever is done can't go wrong, or can't go right, depending on how you look at it.

I'm pretty sure the owner of this quilt doesn't visit my blog (there are only two people in the group that do) so I'm showing this here...

Hopefully next month will be the unveiling for all eight Mini Round Robins!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Envelope label

I had a bit of a challenge trying to put a label on the Boxy Stars prayer quilt that we made for our high school friend last week. The Sunday School kids made the label without any guidance from me and it turned out a lot larger than I expected. The Sunday School teacher provided felt pens and fabric but when it was handed to me to sew on I realized that it wouldn't fit on the back without overlapping the Footprints panel that I'd centered...

I didn't want to ask them to do it again but it did seem to be out of place... What to do?

I remembered seeing somewhere about an envelope label that could be sewn onto the back and could hold pertinent information and scraps of fabric for repair work or something. Sort of out of my head I made the label into a square with interfacing and backing and then added Velcro and a button so that it would "fold up". Kind of cute. A young girl can hide something in there I suppose (if she doesn't forget to take it out before she washes the quilt) though I don't know what other purpose an envelope on the back of a quilt might have.

Solved my problem... The label fits now!

Friday, March 26, 2010


Yesterday I ended up going to Kentucky Fried Chicken for a Japanese style fillet chicken burger (same as normal but with teriyaki sauce), spreading books and papers and notebooks everywhere and trying to get organized for teaching next year. (The school year starts in April.) That turned out to be harder to do than I expected because I forgot my reading glasses.

I teach so many different levels of classes, adults, grade school kids and kindergarten and pre school classes, and use so many different books and websites, and print out so many different levels of English materials, that I get confused about which class is doing what. I've been teaching for years so this is not a new development but maybe my brain is having trouble remembering because I often look at the kids in my classes and think,

"Now what were we doing last week?"

Yesterday I started writing out yearly lesson plans, organizing books, and making a resolution to keep on top of records and plans. A little late but better than never...

And yesterday three more of my students "graduated" which makes me sad and happy at the same time. They were the kids from the class that I disbanded two years ago, three of them came back and we've carried on the same way ever since...

It has always been like pulling teeth to get these two girls and a boy to say anything or do anything. Shy or just little initiative. To the very end just whispers and unsure smiles. Even when playing CLUE last night I thought

"Just move the piece! Why does it take inner consultation with your psyche to decide whether to move towards the Ballroom or towards the Conservatory?"

Sort of like playing a slow game of professional chess... I sound like a grump, don't I.

But these kids have been coming to me for 6 years and I suppose they understand more than they let on. They just don't say anything (in Japanese either.) So I was relieved when we said goodbye because there will be no more teeth pulling. But I was sad because they have been sweet kids and have been on my mind for 6 whole years...

And whether those 6 years made any difference in their lives.... I don't have a clue.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Knitting in progress

I've got a basically free day so I need to do some house cleaning. My timer is set for 20 minutes on this computer and then I am off!

This morning I blocked the pieces of the vest that I've been knitting. This doesn't look interesting (not too colorful is it?) but Leiya wanted natural. My friend Mrs. Ide who has formally studied knitting once told me that the most important step in knitting (or crochet) is blocking the pieces before putting them together. Hey, I've spent years not blocking anything but Mrs. Ide claims it makes a world of difference so I've recently been taking the extra step of pinning down the pieces and steam pressing. Since this is cotton yarn I hope the vest will hold it's shape better... After these pieces are connected I'll put a single stitch crochet trim around the edges... Will that hold it? (I changed the pattern from pullover to button down... But I don't think Leiya wants buttons...)

And Thursday I helped three of my students make cell phone bags. A few months ago BrendaLou had sent me some patterns and so these went together easily. I had picked out some fabric that I wasn't really planning to use but the three girls dived into my stash drawers and came up with the cute kitty fabric.

"But this is Christmas fabric! It's March!"

No matter. Two of the girls wanted kitty Christmas cell phone bags. I wonder what their parents thought...

Okay. Off to clean! Hey, blogging only took me 10 minutes today!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

GROSS!! but mine

While putting some of the things that Marlene gave me from cleaning out her cupboards, I came across some

Absolutely no one wants nor needs but cannot be thrown away stuff in a drawer.

Okay gang. I don't want to gross you out but I guess I've got to show this to explain it. What do you think this is?

I know... it looks like a piece of dried up snot. Not too far off there folks!

I've got three of them.

And for some reason two of them came in boxes and the last one came wrapped in a piece of gauze.

One is our first daughter's. One is Takumi's. And the one without the box is Leiya's.

Each was given to me a few days after our children were born.

When I got the first one I about dropped it and was grossed out. The second time (Takumi's) I looked forward to getting it. And when Leiya came along I was disappointed that I didn't get a box...

On the back of the first box is just MY name and the date.

On the back of Takumi's box is all sorts of pertinent information like how much he weighed, how long he was, what time he was born etc. etc.

And Leiya's is just sitting in its gauze looking like... a piece of snot... No information whatsoever and the only person in the world that can recognize it is me.

These are my children's umbilical cords! Or at least the part that falls off the baby's tummy a few days after birth. The nurses give them to new mothers when they leave the hospitals and Japanese mothers treasure them as proof of the bond between them and their child. Supposedly someday I'm supposed to pass this on to my children's partners in life... I don't think any partner is seriously going to be thrilled to receive this... Not like a diamond or a new car or something....

So I have these unnecessary gross looking pieces of... me and baby. But am I going to throw them out? Not yet. Back in the drawer they go.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Machine applique

Yesterday I did some applique. I used to say that I didn't like applique. And then I did some needle turn and found that I enjoyed it after all. Today I have a headache. I guess that tells you that I didn't enjoy the process so much yesterday.

Mrs. Furui loaned me a beautiful book with applique patterns and instructions on how to do three techniques of applique; fusible applique, hand applique and machine applique. I had a general idea of how to do fusible applique. The instructions in the book about hand applique were different from needle turn but I figured it might be similar. Machine applique is new to me so I opted for that technique.

HAH! Never again! Now I'm not sure where I went wrong but just getting all the little pieces ironed on to and around each paper piece took hours and I burned fingers in the process. The points didn't hold onto the freezer paper and so on the advice of the book I used glue stick. Well, Japanese glue stick may be stickier than American glue stick.

Once my pieces were made (take a break, Tanya. Go walk the dog for an hour!) I ironed them onto the background. Hmm. The freezer paper doesn't hold. Use more glue. Zig-zagging around all the pieces with nylon thread actually worked out very well! I wish I'd used this when I was making my stained glass quilt last year.

By evening I had the block nicely appliqued. Finished right? Nope. All those freezer paper pieces are under there and needed to be taken out. The book said

"With very sharp scissors make a gentle cut in the background fabric under the applique pieces and carefully remove the freezer paper."

As if it is that simple!!! Why is it when the freezer paper wasn't sticking to the pieces and backing, it now is permanently adhered to the fabric edges? And the points with the glue stick? That left paper residue all over the back and pulling the points tore the fabric! Headaches, headaches, headaches.

Note to myself. Never, never, never use Japanese glue stick on fabric. My burned fingers were now having their fingernails torn out trying to get at the paper under those edges. And I thought removing paper from paper piecing blocks was hard! Those weren't cemented in like these!

But the block is done. Too many hours devoted to this to admit.

Any advice for future projects? Does someone have a fail proof method for applique?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Some sewing

I guess I never got around to showing Thursday's work at Mrs. Furui's for the bazaar quilt. It still isn't at flimsy stage but we were able to put the inner blocks together and next month we should be able to get the corners on... I hope...

Though we started making this quilt way back in May of last year, we aren't much farther along than some years when we start in April of the bazaar year... And we are still asking "Who is going to quilt this?"

And Miku-san came over on Friday to put the finishing stitches into her baby quilt. I sewed the binding on for her and she turned it and hand sewed the edges. Grandma-to-be made a label for the back. And Mi kept us company.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Cleaning and moving

Nothing beautiful to show you today.

Yesterday I went to my good friend, Marlene's house, to help her clean and pack. Marlene is leaving for Hong Kong next week and she had to pack up her home of 20 years ALL BY HERSELF! (Her husband is already in Hong Kong.)

As if packing weren't enough, there is all the paper work that needs to be done when moving. Change of addresses, telephones, car registration, Alien registration (we're foreigners here right) insurance forms, realtor papers, bank accounts, electricians, plumbers, recycle shop papers, the list is endless... And Marlene doesn't read nor write Japanese any better than I do.

Uh-hum. I sometimes use my blog to send a "nudge" to friends' family members and today I'm addressing this to Marlene's husband.

You need to go out and buy Marlene a piece of pretty jewelry because she has done a mountain of work these past couple months IN JAPANESE and she deserves a rousing hooray from her family. I sure couldn't have done it!!!!

Anyway, Marlene and I spent nearly 12 hours going around the rooms throughout the house and putting things in throw away, give away and put away piles. Unfortunately quite a lot of the give away pile came home with ME and now I get to figure out where to put away. At any rate, between the two of us, a neighbor and another foreigner friend we've got that house looking pretty well cleared up.

(Garbage in the throw away pile)

(My take home pile)

Marlene is still here three more days and she plans to wax floors, wash windows, pack a closet, do errands, go to three more farewell parties and bake cookies for the neighbors. I don't know. I'd probably skip the waxing and washing and baking... Hope she doesn't wear herself ragged.

Relax Marlene! Have a good time in Hong Kong. I actually had a fun day cleaning with you yesterday. Next time let's do my house. Do I have to move?

Friday, March 19, 2010


I got a surprise package from Shasta yesterday!!!

In my three and a half years of blogging I have met only two blog friends face to face and one of them is Shasta. We figured out that she lived not too far from where Leiya's homestay family was living and two years ago when Tetsu and I went to Leiya's graduation Shasta drove out of her way to come and meet us for breakfast. (So Shasta, you are the ONLY blog friend who has ever met Tetsu!)

Since then Shasta and I visit each other's blogs and share our love of patchwork and quilting. Shasta has been a homestay mother to a couple of Japanese students and her daughter has visited Japan so we seem to find things to chat about.

Shasta's package was bursting with goodies! Some family pictures in a slideshow that just tickled me and it was so much fun to see her beautiful daughter. The fabric that Shasta included made me laugh out loud! SOOOO MEEEE! Look at this packet of matching fabrics! Oh, my cat friends are going to be so jealous! I will have to come up with the perfect project for these kitty fabrics!

Shasta had talked about the curtain rings that she uses to hold some of her smaller quilts and I'd commented that I would keep my eyes open for them someday when I'm in the States. Well, I can cross that off my list because Shasta included those in her package too along with some Fons and Porter pins that I'd admired before and a quilter's magazine!

Thank you Shasta!!! I have pinned your card to my wall and with think of you when I use the pins!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Kindergarten graduation

Yesterday I attended the Mifumi Kindergarten graduation which was a very formal and teary event.

20 years ago when my kids were in kindergarten, fathers rarely attended kindergarten functions. Child raising was the mothers' duty and fathers posed a daunting and domineering presence but did very little hands on care (except for bathing with children... For some reason that has always been the father's job.) At yesterday's ceremonies there were as many fathers there as mothers and everyone had their cameras and handkerchiefs out!

When my children were little I think Tetsu felt he HAD to attend these kindergarten and school ceremonies because he had this American wife who had different ideas about how both parents should participate in their children's activities. He went grudgingly and slightly embarrassed to the kindergarten and elementary ceremonies but he chickened out at Japanese Jr. high and high school graduation.

Kindergartens are private and so the 30 graduating children will be going off to different elementary schools around the city. I know they are proud to call themselves Mifumi graduates and if they are anything like my own children, will remember their kindergarten years with much fondness.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


A quicky post. I'm off to the kindergarten graduation today (complete with caps and gowns!)

Kaoru-san and I finished the Boxy Stars quilt for our friend who will be going away to high school. I put on the borders (scrappy.... not enough of any fabric for matching borders) and the backing (scrappy and I am so pleased! A big panel of the Footprints poem!) and binding (scrappy... I had originally cut too many 2 1/2 inch strips) and got the quilt ready for Kaoru-san to sew the binding down.

Though sewing down binding isn't the most exciting of jobs, Kaoru-san said she got it done in a few hours and ENJOYED doing the handwork and reminiscing about the young girl whom we've both known since kindergarten.

This weekend I'll put in some ties and ask the church members to pray and tie the quilt on Sunday.