Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Miscellaneous pictures

Just some odd pictures that I've taken this week that don't have much to do with anything.

Here's Chip watching the recarpeting process from one of the empty bookshelves we'd moved.

The heavy rains and surrounding "jungle" finally brought down the old house that has sat along the roadside for years. Since I've been taking it's picture since I started blogging all the while trying to predict when it would come down for good Tetsu thought I should record it's demise. You can hardly see it through the trees.

This large sign on a building made me whip out my camera at an intersection. Now what do you think it is trying to say? I wonder what fire customers might be and why the hair salon wants them firest? I think that R is trying to be an N. "FiNest" That would make more sense... When I see mistakes like this I always wonder who is responsible. The person who thought up the logo? The sign makers who don't know the English alphabet? The store manager for not noticing and sending the sign back?

Tuesday, June 29, 2010


I spent a little time in my "new" sewing room and have sewn part of the Pinwheels and Patches together. This is definitely a lot easier than trying to machine quilt a big quilt. It was a little difficult getting the seams to line up on the two sides because of the amount of bulk pulling at the quilt from both under and above but maybe next time I'll use more pins. Also the seams on the bottom went all directions but I was too busy concentrating on keeping edges aligned, seams somewhat matched and not sewing in the layers of batting and backing to worry about directional seams. I think it will all quilt out in the end. Sorry no pictures of that process.

I did put together another Alabama Beauty block, this time in Firefly colors! Maybe I should have been even brighter in that pink area. Now what am I going to do with this one obviously different block? Make more I suppose. And then what? How am I going to combine two such different color schemes?

I did mention the other day that I love the rain. That's true. But I'm not so fond of this humidity. I can almost watch the mold grow on things! Vegetables spoil. I carry around a wet face towel all the time. It's a good thing I don't wear makeup, it would be melting off my face. Bugs abound. Smells from factories and farms settle on the neighborhood (and you know my animals.) The temperature is not as high as it gets in California but the humidity is at 85%. Sometimes I imagine that it is hard to breathe... I have finally resorted to using the air conditioner! I will NOT be doing any hand quilting for awhile.

Monday, June 28, 2010

New carpet!

Well the weekend was an exhausting one for Tetsu and me. Mostly for Tetsu. I just hung around the outskirts and helped move furniture. I'm sure Tetsu would have liked to let his frustrations show on this project but since it was to be my birthday present he made great effort to stay cheerful and upbeat. Even so, Saturday and Sunday we both had headaches, skipped the pool, ate instant food and slept downstairs.

I have complained for a good many years about the carpet in my sewing room. It is filthy. But more than filthy it smells! Velvet lives up in that room and he may have decided he doesn't like the cat box. Or it could be the other cats that occasionally come visiting wanted to leave their mark. At any rate, a twenty plus year old rug that has had numerous cat residents does not smell good. And with the heat and humidity? Talk about suffocating!

Vel doesn't seem to mind and even I am open minded about the smells but recently I have had friends coming up to the sewing room to use the sewing machine. This is not a room that can accommodate visitors no matter how much I straighten up!

A few years ago Tetsu carpeted our Japanese room (for the same reasons as above) and he used removable carpet tiles that I can remove, wash and replace. This has worked pretty well for us (a bit of an effort to keep ahead of the washing... 6 cats you know) and Tetsu decided that instead of buying me something for my birthday, he would give me a gift of time and labor.

This is the room before he started. Doesn't look too bad right? Well, you can be happy blogging doesn't communicate smells. And look at that spot near the door. The cats have dug up and EATEN the carpet there. For the past couple of years I've been hiding that spot with various bath mats.

Tetsu and I moved everything out. There is a lot of heavy furniture in that room mostly of Tetsu's making. I was told to go do my errands and Tetsu spent the day cutting plywood, laying it out and putting down carpet liner. When I got back in the afternoon he was laying out carpet tiles and trying to cut them to the interesting shape that the doorway involves. This is where I came in handy again by getting out my cutting mat and 24 inch acrylic ruler and cutting for him. By the end of the day we were pooped but Tetsu got an emergency call from work and had to go in til late at night. Poor man!!!

And yesterday after church all the furniture was moved BACK into the room, the CD player hooked up (it had been out of order for the past year) and everything rearranged to my fancy. For all that work Tetsu commented that it doesn't really look much different from before, but IT SMELLS DIFFERENT!!

The former carpet had tried to be pink. The new carpet tiles are blue gray. I chose that color because I thought it would be better for laying out patchwork blocks when the design board gets too small. Always thinking patchwork! It looks great!!!

Oh, and Velvet christened the new carpet with a hair ball this morning so I guess he approves. (But this is Mi sitting in the sewing room. She seems to think this might be a nice place to live too.)

Sunday, June 27, 2010


My college age friend, Sasha, asked me some questions about being a foreigner in Japan for her research paper. I thought I'd answer here and make this today's topic.

Even though I have lived in Japan 33 years, I am a foreigner and will always be a foreigner. As a Western foreigner Japanese are very accepting of me and go out of their way to be helpful and make exceptions for me. But I remember when I first came to Japan I met someone who somewhat bitterly said to me,

"Everybody treats you Americans like royalty. You get special attention and everyone wants to be your friend. Sure you like Japan. Everything is laid out for you. Try being a Taiwanese or a Chinese foreigner. Try coming from Iran or the Philippines. Those foreigners aren't as well treated as you Americans."

The person had a point. There is still a difference (I don't like to use the word discrimination) towards foreigners from the Asian countries. Japanese friends will innocently say things like

"There's a man in our neighborhood who is from (some country). I'm scared of him."


"Look at all the foreigners here today. It is very colorful at the pool today. Whites and Blacks even."

Well. I could go into the comments that I've heard that sound very racist yet I don't think my friends realize it at all. And maybe they don't even remember that I am one of the foreigners whom they are stereotyping.

So personally I feel accepted in my adopted country but that is certainly not true for all the foreigners who live in Japan.

Would I ever want to have Japanese citizenship? No. It has never crossed my mind. It is very difficult to get Japanese citizenship in the first place and it would mean renouncing my American citizenship which I am not about to do. Japanese law will not allow dual citizenship after a certain age (my children still are dual). I don't see any benefits of giving up my American citizenship and gaining Japanese. Sure, I guess I could vote (I don't have voting rights in Japan) or stop having to carry around my Alien Registration card or something but as long as Tetsu or one of the kids claim me as their dependent I lead a pretty fulfilling life.

And outside of my immediate circle of friends, Japanese will always see me as a foreigner. It doesn't matter how fantastic my Japanese is (it's not all that fantastic), how long I've lived here, how much I have assimilated into the culture, my face and my accent gives me away. And by the way, there are people who have been born in Japan, speak flawless Japanese and yet are not awarded Japanese citizenship by the government and are "foreigners" in their own land.

Some of Sasha's other questions included one about what foreigners have to do to be accepted.

Smile a lot!

Be willing to try anything and everything. I truly think culture and food are inseparable so it is important to be able to eat at the same table and not make a face at the food offered. The nudity in the spas is another hurdle a foreigner has to overcome in order to really experience the Japanese culture.

Commit yourself with time and effort. If nothing else, everything in Japan takes TIME. In order to change things, in order to make judgements, years go by! It is a little frustrating for the Western foreigner at least. Japan runs on tradition and ancestors and the tried and true. To make a change or to personally make a difference one has to be committed to a job. Japanese will spend a couple YEARS contemplating whether an idea is good or bad before they even get around to perusing the ways of implementing an idea. The foreigners in Japan tend to give up or make new plans before their Japanese counterparts have even made arrangements to put something into consideration... Yes. To be accepted in Japan you have to commit yourself.

Another question from Sasha was how much Japanese language is necessary to come to Japan. Not much! There are loads of people here who can speak English. I once heard that there are more English teachers in Japan than teachers in any other subject and that includes the academics and cultural subjects. That doesn't mean that everybody speaks English (far from it) but that most people want to give their lessons a little practical use. If worse comes to worse they can always find someone who speaks even better English to help out. So while knowing the Japanese language can be convenient I have known foreigners who have lived in Japan 20 or 30 years and don't really speak the language all that well...

Well Sasha, I hope that answers some of your questions. I have had people say I've lived too long in Japan and am not even foreign anymore (my foreign friend disgustedly made that comment). And I've had people say that I have more Japanese mannerisms and characteristics than real Japanese (a Japanese friend said that as a compliment).

I guess I'm as accepted as I'm ever going to be.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Mrs. Nakazawa's Kitty quilt

Yesterday, a couple friends came over to do patchwork and Mrs. Nakazawa (my cat mentor) brought her FINISHED cat quilt and started her next project. Isn't this the cutest thing! She made so many kitties and sewed buttons on for eyes. In the corner is her beloved Mick with a fancy bangle and smiling eyes!

As for me, my Patches and Pinwheels quilt is basically quilted! And here it is laid out in the sewing room and hallway. It doesn't all fit in the room! Now comes the adventure part. Can I really put these four quarters together? I sure hope so because as is these are four odd quilts... Once these get together I'll have to figure out what to do about the border. I've left the edges of this unquilted thinking that I'll have an easier time uniformly quilting the border and even a large quilt is manageable on the edges.


I can't do that today nor tomorrow because I've got to go upstairs and help Tetsu move furniture. What do you think he's up to? Here is Mi helping him do some calculations. Tetsu has his saw and nails and hammer out again. I'm not going to be able to use the sewing room for a couple of days.

Friday, June 25, 2010


At my crosswalk, cars come at us from three ways. The crosswalk button stops oncoming traffic from two ways but the other street, coming around the corner, doesn't give a good view of the light. Nevertheless, it is hard to miss 10 or 20 kids by a crosswalk.

When the children get to the light I motion them to wait until I see that most of the cars have gone by and then tell someone to push the button (in English! I'm sneaking in a little English comprehension that they don't know about!) After that, I wave my flag a little and have the children check both ways. Finally I blow my whistle and step into the crosswalk myself. Hopefully all the kids get across the street before the light changes back.

On Friday I went into my routine but as I stepped into the street a car coming from around the corner advanced to the crosswalk. He's supposed to stop. I waved my flag at him and he finally braked with his bumper nearly in the crosswalk. The school principal was with me that day and he held up the kids at the crosswalk. Wait a minute. Let's let these kids across. I motioned to the car to wait. The principal motioned for me to let the car go first. The kids were already halfway across the crosswalk and looking confused. The car advanced a bit further probably wanting me to get out of the way. I fumbled for a few seconds, car first? children first? but finally kept the car waiting and let the kids across. The car went on his way.

On Monday as I was just finishing my duties a car pulled up at the corner and a man rolled down his window.

"You don't blow your whistle loud enough. Drivers can't hear it. And your flag directions are too confusing. You've got to be clearer in your directing. No one knows if they are supposed to go or stop or whatever. What do you think you are there for?"

I thanked the driver for his advice and he went on his way. A little discouraging for me. I had thought I was doing so well... Friday's driver?

I spent a couple days thinking about the complaint. The driver has a point. If no one understands my directions then I'm not really fulfilling my duties. Regardless of who has the right away, me and my flag and my whistle are there to direct traffic and make it EASIER and SAFER for everyone involved. I vowed to improve my directing skills.

From Wednesday I've been out at the crosswalk waving my flag around like a mad-woman, shouting out directions and blowing my whistle loud and long!


One of the little girls told me that I sure yelled loudly.

"Well, someone told me I needed to be clearer in my directing. I want you all to be safe."

"Actually, you look sort of strange."

Ah well. Strange but clear.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Quilting magazines

I have all four Alabama Beauty blocks in my possession again. I took a picture before I lose them for the umpteeth time. I'm thinking that I need some brighter colors in this... The new block is the one on the right.

The other day I was looking through some old quilt magazines that a friend had sent me. I've browsed through them before and marked the things I'd like to make someday or pictures that I find inspiring. On one page that I'd marked was a quilt called Fireflies and I'd thought it stunning when I saw it. I realized looking at it again that it is the Alabama Beauty block but done with all dark background the sparkles of light fabric in some of the outer curves... Very pretty... So I guess if this block has caught my fancy twice that I'm supposed to make it. I don't know if I want to make a whole quilt with the dark colors (I don't have enough dark blue-black fabric) but I might try a Firefly colorscheme next.

Question. When I was Googling images of quilts I came up with another "I want to make someday" quilt. And following the link took me McCalls Quilting website and a picture of the quilt. But there seems to be no available pattern for a quilt from the 2009 September issue. That's okay. I'd be willing to buy the issue to make the quilt but I can't figure out how to do that either... Is that because I'm not a member? But I've signed up for their newsletter. I can't really figure out if this quilt (cats of course) was just a gallery quilt and maybe there IS no pattern anywhere. In which case I'm ready with my tag board and colored pencils to make the pattern myself! But if I could save myself the trouble I'd be a lot happier... Does anyone know how these quilting magazine websites work? Where does one find and purchase back issues of quilting magazines? Or maybe I'll have to go hunting in the local libraries when I get back to the States.

I've got to do some major cleaning today! And I want to quilt the last quarter of my Patches and Pinwheels quilt. I'd better get off the computer.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


We are in the middle of the rainy season and everything is wet. The floors are wet. The book pages curl. My hair frizzes. Cat fur sticks to everything. Choco is in a bad mood because there is nothing to do but try to stay dry.

Actually I love the rain so I'm one of the few people who don't really mind the season. I love the sound of the raindrops in the forest and the patter of them on my crosswalk raincoat.

I love the colorful umbrellas against the green. I love the hydrangeas soaking up the life giving water.

It's a great day!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Star Within a Star

Rats. I left the box containing my latest Alabama Beauty block that I wanted to post at Mrs. Furui's house. It is a running joke with my patchwork group that I can't leave Mrs. Furui's house without forgetting something. My sewing box, a quilt, my camera, it's always something. This week it is my 4 Alabama blocks that I was showing (off) to my group.

Before I get back to that I had to make another block of something different. This is called Star Within a Star. I don't remember where I first saw this block but I loved it and saved the instructions to my computer thinking I'd make this someday.

Well, I'm still up in the air about what block to select for the next patchwork group game/block swap. Everyone else is choosing small Lemon Stars or Prairie Stars or something. One lady has chosen a large applique block. One person would like Pineapple blocks. A lot of variety on this game. And you already know that I had been thinking about the Alabama Beauty block but zipped that idea just because it is too much of a challenge. If I asked my friends to make that block for me I might have fewer friends... So I've been browsing the Internet... looking through books... making a few trial blocks myself... If I don't watch out I'm going to have a good start on an Orphan block quilt!!!

Oh yes, and I'd tossed around the idea of making Spools too, right? but I think I'd rather have large blocks that I can point to and say

"This one was made by Mrs. Furui. This one was made by Mrs. Harada... etc."

So I'm playing with the Star Within a Star.

Not too difficult. I could suggest even just making the inner star for anyone who thinks the double star too much of a challenge.

Actually the biggest challenge is going to be writing out the instructions in Japanese for my friends... (Other people can just copy a page from a book...) Maybe I should go back to my Spools...

Monday, June 21, 2010

Japanese Word

A couple people asked me how the kids and Tetsu do Chat. It is a little complicated but we manage.

We have two computers in our house. The old one rarely gets used because the screen is going bad but we can't toss it because it is the only one that Tetsu can operate. Whereas any computer can be modified to write Japanese printing (don't ask me how... Takumi did it for me, but Leiya's host family managed to fairly simply download something that allowed Leiya to write in Japanese too) our old computer has a keyboard with Japanese characters on it.

Usually Japanese will type in the Romanized alphabet version of Japanese (they can just look at an English keyboard and just type letters) and by hitting the Space tab, the Romanized letters will change to Japanese.

For example.


Japanese Word automatically will switch to a simple Japanese character when I input a letter.

The underline there will let me know that those simple characters (called Hiragana) can be further changed into Chinese characters. 渡邊

And the black around those characters lets me know that I have numerous choices of Chinese characters that I might use so if I continue to hit the Space button, Word will give me choices until I select the correct set of characters and hit Enter.

It's the second one that I want... 渡辺

Actually we are far from the question of how Tetsu and the kids and I communicate.

The kids can write an e-mail to us using either Japanese or English. Both the computers in our house can accept both languages. BUT if Tetsu wants to write an e-mail to the kids he has to go to the old computer because he is dependent on the Japanese keyboard. (Or he asks me to transcribe for him on mine.) He has never learned the Romanized way of touch typing.

If we are on Chat (MSN) which we are only registered with MY computer, then we can both read whatever language is being written by the kids. They know enough to write in English when they are chatting with me and to write in Japanese when they are chatting with Tetsu. Sometimes both languages and characters get used in the same sentence.

Nowadays we also have Visual and Voice Chat which means we can see each other and just talk over the computer, no typing involved. This works best when both Tetsu and I are around because we all go into Japanese and Tetsu and I don't have to worry about reading or writing or transcribing or translating any language. Occasionally Leiya will type some message in English that she doesn't want Tetsu to know about,

"I sent Tetsu-san a Father's Day card at his office. Let me know when it arrives."

but Voice Chat and Visual Chat work best for us. (Unfortunately only Takumi and I have cameras on our computers... We never get to see Leiya.)

The Japanese language is extremely complicated with all the Japanese and Chinese and Romanized characters and letters going around. Japanese Word DOES make it all easier. I would never be able to write Japanese at all if it weren't for the computer but this way I only have to choose which character I need (they all mean something different even if they sound the same!!!) and after 30 years my Japanese READING ability is about jr. high level. WRITING? Put me back in 1st grade.

Tetsu and the kids' and my lives are really enriched by the computer world and thanks to technology it never seems as if we live on opposite sides of the world!

So that's the long round about explanation of how our family communicates. Now... I wonder if those Japanese and Chinese characters are going to show up on this blog anyway... Can you see them or are they disappearing into scribbles?

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Happy Father's Day!

Happy Father's Day, Tetsu!

Let's see... That must be about the 5th or 6th time he's been wished that this week.

I started last Sunday by wishing him a happy day and realizing later that Father's Day wasn't til THIS weekend. Pretty much par for the course with me... I always get dates wrong.

And I'd bought him some new swim trunks so I gave him an early Father's Day gift and more blessings.

Then yesterday Leiya was on chat and wished him a happy Father's day.

"Thank you Leiya but you're a day early... That's alright your mother was a week early."

Leiya got a good laugh over that.

And yesterday Tetsu took rare interest in something in the store so I bought it for him as another Father's Day present. "Happy Father's Day!"

And when we woke up this morning I wished him a Happy Father's Day again.

Yesterday was Tetsu's day off but bright and early he got a phone call from his office. I snapped this picture wondering if he was going to end up going to the office after all but he did manage to have a relaxing rest of the day. Actually Tetsu hates his cell phone but this is a pretty typical shot. It's not like he's a detective or a doctor or something, but still he feels (someone feels) he needs to be on call all the time.

Well, yesterday Tetsu took the day off but he's working today... Maybe I'll stop by and wish him a Happy Father's Day!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Quilt show

Quilt show! Quilt show!

I am proud to announce the unveiling of Utsunomiya's Crazy Lady Quilters 2010 Mini-Round Robin quilts. We seven quilters are thrilled to finally get a look at the mini-Round Robin quilts that have been passed around, consulted over, agonized about, stitched in, (ripped out), and loved through and through for the past 19 months. Yes. Nineteen months! How that ever happened I don't know and we blithely guessed that this had taken us about a year until I went back to the first entries of this blog and realized we started our Mini-Round Robin in November of 2008. Horrified! Well, I guess we aren't particularly speedy quilters but all in all we are proud of our results. (And remember how I despaired over some of these?)

Mrs. Takami's quilt. She is our one member that was never able to attend our Thursday meetings. She ended up working on quilts and passing them along without ever asking for suggestions or getting advice. And she never missed a deadline!

This is Mrs. Furui's quilt. Obviously all of us know she likes blue and has a musical bent. The musical notes appliqued and embroidered on this was done by our one very un-confident member and I think her idea is inspiring!

This is Mrs. Yamaguchi's quilt and I think everyone picked up the colors pretty well. The painstakingly appliqued little coffee cup was an especial hit with her.

This is Mrs. Harada's quilt. It was interesting how the blocks at the bottom sort of directed this quilt because it looked so much like a fence... but that wasn't what the block creator had imagined. I, of course, think the embroidered cat that someone put in (it wasn't me!) MAKES the quilt!

This is Mrs. Takagishi's quilt and again, the simple polka dot block in the center set the quilt's theme and lots of circles got added to this quilt. The wavy binding especially thrilled the member who had put in the pink border but hadn't gotten around to quilting it. Well, if she'd quilted the border it couldn't have been cut into like this.

This is Mrs. Ochiai's quilt. It was quite a surprise to everyone and a couple people said "where are the borders?" Well, we made the rules (apply a border) and we are allowed to break them. The border is there... just doubled on one side...


I cried! Do I ever love the colors in this! And look at those kitties! And look at what they are looking at! Green pastures and a fluffy sheep and Psalm 23!

As the story goes, our non-confident member (whom we all love dearly!!!) got to her part and couldn't do, didn't have time, didn't know how to do the embroidery. But this friend is very good at directing and so she brought the quilt to Mrs. Furui LAST MONDAY and said things like,

"That space is too blank. The cats need to be looking at something."

So Mrs. Furui put in a sheep.

"There needs to be something above that. Psalm 23 would be a good verse to put there."

So Mrs. Furui probably went without sleep to embroider the verse. The two of them make a great team! This is SOOO wonderful! I put it up in my living room as soon as I got home and I gaze at all the love stitched in every time I walk by.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Something fishy?

Sometimes I get these dumb e-mails that tell me I've won a million dollars or pounds or something. I delete those without thinking.

Sometimes I get e-mails that have a sob story (many time with Christian nuances) asking me to help them by sending money. Sorry. I delete those too.

Last night I got an e-mail from a friend. Someone I've met through the Internet but have personal connections to. Someone I feel close to but have never met face to face (but Leiya has!) Someone who would not send me an e-mail like the one sent.

"Sorry I didn't let you know but I am in Wales and have been robbed at gunpoint and lost everything... I will like you to assist us by sending $1800... I promise we will pay you back as soon as I return... Reply asap."

And the e-mail was "signed" with my friend's name.

First off, my friend wouldn't come to me (except for prayers) if she were in trouble. She has closer family and friends nearby. Second she isn't the type of person to ask for money either. Third, the e-mail was filled with grammatical mistakes. My friend is an amateur journalist. So I knew right away that something was off.

But off or not... I don't really have money to send even to family members let alone friends so I wondered how and if I should find out if my friend was in trouble. Even if she was, I'm not going to be able to help.

I checked the e-mail address against past e-mails that we've exchanged and yes, it was the same. Well, then I'm not sending my friend an e-mail asking if this was really her or telling her that something was fishy. I don't even have a telephone number to call. I finally figured out that Leiya could get through to her on Facebook and there was a message there that some jerk has been phishing from her Yahoo account. (New word for me. I didn't know such things existed.) So my friend is fine. I asked Leiya to let her know on Facebook that I wouldn't have any way to contact her until she changed her e-mail address... Obviously I'm not using her current address.

I somehow feel soiled. For awhile I was thinking that maybe it was MY account that had been usurped... But even finding out that all this strangeness isn't coming from me, I feel bad for my friend and for the blogging and e-mail world in general. Most of you are my friends but not that I've met or chatted with on the phone or have anyway of confirming your identity or vice versa. Still, we trust each other right?

Well, I'm saying clearly here. While I might ask you to send me a quilt block or supply me with a pattern that's as far as I'd go in requesting aid...

The only good thing is that I have a better appreciation for Facebook which I've never understood up until now...