Sunday, October 31, 2010


Not greatly perking but it is wonderful how the body responds when it has too. Yesterday I had some work that I could not bow out of and I managed wonderfully. Today... I'm back dragging around.

Yesterday I was helping with a seminar to train interpreters in medical situations. Great fun for me since I got to role play the mentally unbalanced foreigner who didn't understand the Japanese medical system nor have a handle on the Japanese language. Boy did I ham it up! Lots of laughs as I held my head and sobbed into my handkerchief.

Not so funny though are some of the real life situations.

About 10 years ago I befriended a woman from Iran. I saw her outside the neighborhood supermarket and spoke to her a few minutes, she being obviously foreign and with a small half Japanese child by her side. We exchanged telephone numbers and though our common language was only Japanese which she wasn't comfortable with, we became "friends" for the next couple months.

What a story of woe she had! She and her husband had met in Iran when he was working there. Her family disowned her when she married and she came back to our little town with her husband to make a life in Japan. Soon she was pregnant but ended up in the hospital with a threatened miscarriage. She stayed in the hospital 5 months and in the meantime her husband was diagnosed with terminal cancer. He passed away two months after their son was born.

In the cemetery across the street from my house where Tetsu and I walked our dog, there was an interesting gravestone, at the time the only one in the whole cemetery with a picture of a man on it. Inscribed in the stone in childish Japanese characters were words,

"My darling *****. I love you, I miss you. You are my whole heart and will be forever."

So unusual to see such an expression of love and emotion from a Japanese family and Tetsu and I often wondered who the man was (he had passed away young) and what kind of wife would be so open in declaring her affection. Later I found out that it was the Iranian woman! So the mystery was solved.

The poor woman was with a baby in a strange country and no husband. He had left her a small house and money. His family disliked her. She could not go back to Iran because the child did not have Iranian nationality, only Japanese. With his Japanese nationality she was allowed to stay in Japan but without family, friends or work.

For the next few months we saw each other regularly but I wondered about her unorthodox behavior. She seemed to be quite at odds with her neighbors accusing them of spiteful actions and scorn. She was a real shopaholic and her house was FILLED to the ceiling with un-opened boxes of trinkets and clothing and appliances from catalog shopping which she admitted she couldn't stop buying. The child, who was by this time two or three went completely hysterical whenever I visited, and would scream and throw things and seemed to be on the oddest schedule of sleeping during the day and being demanding in the night hours. My friend was at her wit's end but when I suggested she try to adjust the boy's sleeping and eating schedule (he would eat nothing but potato chips) she would say that he was only a child and children could not be trained until they were in school. That is way~ too late in my book but I thought that maybe this was the Iranian way of child raising.

In the end, the woman ended our relationship with outbursts of anger when I tried to explain that I could not and would not take over caring for her husband's grave because the cemetery was so close to me. She accused me of being as hateful as her neighbors and out to get her wealth... A couple of weeks later she returned to Iran for an extended visit and I never talked with her again.

A couple of years went by and once our cars passed each other on the street. "Ah. She's back..." But I decided not to seek her out. She knew where I lived if she wanted to renew our former friendship. I didn't hear from her and sometimes wondered if I should see how she was. I guess by then I'd figured out that what she really needed was some psychological help.

Not too long ago I learned that for a few months she'd been hospitalized in a mental hospital and that her son had been placed in an institution and been diagnosed as autistic. Social workers had been called in but there were none in our area who could counsel her in Persian and she'd become suicidal. In the end the Iranian embassy provided an escort for her and her son to be taken back to Iran where I presume she is getting medical help.

A sad story of how people slip through the cracks. Maybe it is easier to slip when there is a language barrier also involved. I wish I could have helped. I don't think I could have. I hope other foreigners will benefit from the new interpreters who were being trained yesterday.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Cough, cough, sneeze, sniffle

Rats... I am down with a cold. I had sure hoped that all my swimming, if not helping me to lose pounds, would help me keep colds and flu at bay. Nope. Down and out I am! This morning I struggled through cross walk duty in bitter cold and I think I'll be able to pull it off tomorrow too. For the rest of today I'm staying in bed.

There was an interesting trend going on at the pool this week. I noticed one friend with her wrist all wrapped up in gauze. When I asked her what she had done she said that someone (at the pool) had told her a good way to protect herself from cold germs. Something about finding a certain leaf or grass and pulverizing it and then applying it to the pulse point on your wrist. The leaf juices burn through the skin and you are left with a blistered, swollen red mark... and have inoculated yourself against unwanted viruses.

Sure enough a couple other ladies had their wrists bandaged up too... And it was the big topic of discussion a few days later in the locker room. Everybody wants some of the medicinal leaves!
To myself I pooh-pooh a lot of these wives' tale remedies because they catch on so quickly and are forgotten just as quickly but I sort of wish I was wearing a bandage on my wrist today. I could either be perking around or else I could prove leaf medicine as unreliable...

I'm going back to bed.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


Yesterday we did Halloween at the pre-school where I teach. My role is just to get dressed up as a non-scary witch. (I've tried being scary... make-up and all and had children running for cover...) The teachers went to great lengths to think up costumes for the kids made out of garbage bags and milk cartons. I made cookies and the teachers gave out marshmallows and crackers. Aren't the kids cuties? I wish I could show you more pictures but I've made it a policy to get permission (which I did with this devilish little boy.)

I'm not a great fan of Halloween but do my part in decorating... Ghosts and skeletons don't seem too cute to me (I don't understand the skull fashion boom that has hit Japan throughout the year? Why would you want a picture of a dead body on your chest?) but children have fun and it is all in play. Up on my wall this month is a paper-pieced Halloween wall hanging and a Water Color quilt moon.

Last night in my 5th 6th grade class we ate potato chips and cookies and played Clue... When the class was over one girl told her mother,

"We played Murderer!"

Whoa~~! Something got lost in the translation there!

Recently, Japan has had a run of insensitive teachers who pose discussion problems to their classes such as "The best way to commit suicide... " "Meeting someone eligible at a funeral..." " Who do you think killed the school principal?" Some such ridiculous, off-color, poorly thought out logic problems. There's been a lot of TV coverage about teachers' stupidity. I wondered if I would be getting a call from someone today asking why I was teaching "Murderer" to elementary school kids. (Remember once I got into some trouble for teaching Hangman...) Yikes. One has to tread lightly when teaching...

Monday, October 25, 2010

Japanese Vegetable Soup

I don't seem to be taking many pictures lately...

Yesterday our church had a vegetable stew party outdoors so I was busy on Saturday shopping for that. Sunday morning I took off early and met a couple other members and we made soup at a Christian outdoor facility not too far from us.

Japanese vegetable soup recipe
Daikon (icicle radish)
Gobo (burdock root)
Slimy potatoes
Chinese cabbage
Japanese shiitake mushrooms
Deep fried tofu
Green onions
Konyaku (gelatinous potato block)
Dashi (fish soup stock)
Soy sauce


Chop everything up. Throw into a big pot. Simmer over fire until vegetables are tender. Add miso. Eat with rice balls and Japanese pickles! Tastes best in the company of good friends!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Friendship quilts

I'm trying to think of a friendship sort of quilt for a good quilting friend (whom you know). I don't think she reads this blog...

So. There are about 5 of us in our regular quilting group that could participate in secrecy. But my friend has a LOT of friends. Do you think Mary's Lattice quilt might make a good friendship quilt? You know, ask a few people (those that sew) to make up a bunch of blocks (they look like signature blocks to me) and then go around in the next few months and have people sign them? Does that make sense? And then I would probably sew them all together...

To make a true signature quilt everyone would make their own blocks, right? But that really limits the quilt. I guess I would have to make most of the blocks and if I were asking others in my group to help make blocks then it would have to be done by hand (boo...) No one else does machine piecing nor would there be a way to do a quick machine piecing class in secrecy. Could we do some blocks by hand and some by machine? Oohh. Confusing.... Or I could just make up all the blocks myself (I have enough fabric) and just hand them around for people to sign... But does that make it a friendship quilt?

Or just make a 10 or 12 of the same blocks and forget signatures and too bad if not that many people can participate....

So many quilts right now on my table and in my head and here I'm thinking of starting another one... But I don't really know where to start. Any ideas?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Not me!

Yesterday 6 of us gathered for more patchwork at Furui-san's house. Mostly talking.... I didn't get out the needle and thread even once! (So why do we call it patchwork time?) Mostly exchanging information about techniques... exhorting the advantages of machine piecing or quilting, explaining new tools that we've purchased, showing new books bought or borrowed.

Afterwards I visited Mrs. Yamaguchi's house because she wanted to show me her new.... KITTENS!


Don't anybody freak out and jump to the conclusion that I've brought home two more. These cuties are Mrs. Yamaguchi's and she is completely smitten by them. So adorable! God surely gave baby animals a wonderful share of cuteness that brings them burrowing into our hearts. I snapped picture after picture of these two posing so primly for me in their chair... (one got sleepy!)

And just because this is such a rare GOOD picture of me I'm showing it on my blog and I'll fool you into thinking I look like this all the time. Mrs. Ochiai took pictures yesterday and I swear she must have a magic camera! (One of those big Eos or Canon or something cameras). I think I'll ask her if I can use this picture at my funeral someday....

Unfortunately this isn't me ...

Thursday, October 21, 2010


For some reason Blogger isn't allowing uploads for two hours so no pictures today...

Hmmm. What did I do yesterday? Mostly taught. Wednesday is my busy day. 5 classes at the kindergarten (about 30 minutes each) a couple hours with friends "teaching" English (really just talking in English), another hour at a private home with four kids. Sometimes I think I really should start cutting down on teaching time. There are lots of people out there who would like the job... I sure would like more free time... It's not that I HAVE to work...

I came to Japan as an English teacher for a small Christian center in Morioka in Northern Japan. "The TIBET of Japan!" was what I had been told. It was true that the area was COLD and not many foreigners lived there. I spent three years teaching children and adults in small private classes along with four other missionaries. I also was assigned a couple days a week to teach at a jr. college on the coast but that turned out to be a complete disaster.

I was 22. Just out of college myself. And I'd REALLY studied in college! That's what college students do! But in Japan, going to a jr. college meant that the student had failed to get into any other college... that they really had no interest in studying but weren't ready to go out looking for a job. 30 years ago the level of jr. colleges was pretty low.

I was driven 4 hours by a private driver to the college and taught three or four classes. I stayed overnight in a haunted house (not true but the curtains were crumbling, there was no one else in the house except me huddled by a kerosene stove in the living room until I could go to bed in the dimly lit room), the next day I taught a couple more classes and then the driver brought me back to the Christian center where I'd collapse with relief!

I felt (and I think the students felt) that the school and dormitories were a place shut off from the world. It had a stark, prison-like feel to it and the headmaster and teachers (all of whom were shuttled in like me) were strict and unsmiling. The students slept through class or threw spitballs at me or told me dirty jokes that I didn't really understand... In short a nightmare! On one test I failed over half the class and everyone (including the headmaster) seemed to think I needed to give the class a retest. And another retest and another retest until everyone had passing marks. I had kids sobbing, and smoking and threatening suicide and there went my ideals of teaching in Japan. I was ready to give up and go back to California!

I'm embarrassed to admit it but after a year I refused to go back to the school. I said my contract was up (true but it was in the middle of the school year) and I would not renew it unless I was relieved from teaching at the jr. college. 30 years ago native English speakers in Japan were few and far between and so the center really wanted me to stay. Somehow it was arranged that I would renew my contract at the center but would no longer teach at the college. The headmaster was so angry with me that on my last day there no driver was provided to get me back to the city. I had to find my own way to the train station, I had to figure out the schedules and transfers on the trains and HOURS later finally got back to what I considered home. Shaking the dust off my sandals if you know what I mean!

That one year of teaching in an institution traumatized me for life and I've never taught regularly at a school again. After marriage I started teaching neighborhood children and mothers with babies and when my kids were in kindergarten I started helping out and later was hired there. Occasionally I have had schools ask me to join their staff but I have no teaching certificate (which is necessary nowadays), only a lot of experience. Still... I stay away from large classroom situations and find I can be of enough influence just pottering away on my own... God always gives me enough students to help family finances and I don't feel pressured to do testing, give grades and prepare students for entrance exams (English cram schools do that.)

The ladies I "teach" have all become very, very close friends and I really enjoy my JOB!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Another baby quilt

I've started another quilt. This time it is a small baby quilt for a pool friend's grandchild.

Bajiwa-san is from Pakistan and we two are the only regular foreigners who come to the pool. Bajiwa-san and Tetsu spend most of their time talking and Bajiwa-san and I speak to each other in Japanese. He doesn't speak English and I certainly don't speak Hindi or whatever...

A group of us from the pool have gone out to dinner together to a Indian curry place that I love and that Bajiwa-san frequents. So far that is about the only place that we can all eat dinner together because since Bajiwa-san is Islamic he does not eat beef or pork nor even chicken that hasn't been sanctified in a certain way. Sort of limits our getting together but since we see him every night at the pool I guess we don't have to be eating together...

Another interesting thing about Bajiwa-san is that he has two wives! Wow! Am I ever curious about that! One wife lives in Pakistan, one is Japanese... I asked how the wives liked that arrangement and he said that it usually causes a lot of headaches (the men are allowed four wives) but when he took his Japanese wife to Pakistan a couple of years ago, the two women got along very well. Talk about open mindedness on the Japanese wife's part!

Anyway, Bajiwa-san just became a grandfather for the first time last month and I decided I wanted to make his grandchild a simple quilt... Lots of Leader/Enders used. I'm hand quilting this week but I need to get this done by early November when Bajiwa-san and his daughter-in-law and grandchild go back for a visit to Pakistan.

Monday, October 18, 2010


I was talking to one of my students, a mother with three children about how her family spends their weekends. We got to talking about how life really revolves around the children while they are young and how the husband and wife relationship is sort of put on hold. I can talk a lot about this phenomenon.

Couples in Japan enjoy a fun time of dating and courtship (there are still arranged marriages in Japan but that is another story). And then they get married. And then there are children. And then the husband and wife don't do things together anymore.

Tetsu and I were married 5 years before Takumi entered the world. But with his entering, that meant that we were now a trio and it was the three of us that did things together (hmmm. Daddy worked an awful lot so actually Takumi and I were a duo during the weekdays.) And Leiya came along and we were a family that did everything together. And that was fun! BUT...

Tetsu and I never went out again just the two of us for the next 13 years... There were the baby days when I felt I just HAD to get away for a couple of hours. So Tetsu, who was overjoyed being a Daddy, took over (I went to a patchwork class for two hours when Takumi was a year old.) But it wasn't even possible for Tetsu and me to go out alone for a dinner or a movie etc. THERE ARE NO BABY SITTERS IN JAPAN! There just isn't the system or way of thinking. High school girls do not baby sit and besides...what mother would WANT to get away from her children for an evening? BAD MOTHER!

Some Japanese couples do have a live-in baby sitter in the way of a mother-in-law (parents often live with the eldest son's family) and Grandma will watch the children if the young wife has work to do, but baby-sit while the young couple goes out for fun? Uh-uh~ Whoever heard of such a thing!

In our case, Tetsu's mother never lived with us though she was in the same city... but she made it plain that she could not and would not baby sit (she has a slight handicap). There aren't such things as company Christmas parties or dinner out with friends anyway but it would have been nice to have an anniversary dinner together or take in a movie other than Doraemon (a cartoon character).

I remember our 10th anniversary when Takumi was five and Leiya a year old. We all went to some Chinese restaurant and Leiya proceeded to throw hand towels at the customers in the next booth and Takumi spilled his noodles. Tetsu cheerfully took up Leiya and said I should go ahead and eat while he waited in the parking lot and then we could switch places and I could wait with her while he came back and ate. I sat there looking at Takumi who'd fallen asleep with his head in his noodles and thought "THIS IS NOT MY IDEA OF A ROMANTIC ANNIVERSARY DINNER!" (And Tetsu bought me tennis shoes as a 10th anniversary present... I've never let him live it down!)

When I explained to my student that Americans use babysitters, she couldn't understand why American mothers should want to get away from their children. After all, we WANTED children didn't we and wanting to get away from them was very strange...

Of course I COULD HAVE pointed out (but didn't) that Japanese mothers put their kids in kindergarten on weekdays from age three for 5 hours a day and the mothers are SO relieved to finally have some time of their own again after being housebound for three years... That's always seemed a little incongruous to the "good mother" principle (but my kids went to kindergarten at age three too... More free time for me, didn't add any couple time with Tetsu.)

Just cultural differences and I guess one is not good and the other bad. A little hard on the foreigner...

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Quilt exhibit

Tetsu took me to a local quilt exhibition in the next town over and though he isn't very interested in looking at quilts, we spent about half an hour looking at the lovely things.

Some beautiful quilts but what is always most amazing to me is that Japanese quilters do this all by hand. There is not a machine stitch anywhere! The quilting is exquisite. The tiny pieces are mind boggling. The fleeting thought that I really should do more HAND work enters my brain because I have to admit that heirlooms result.

Often when I am teaching quilting, my friends will shun the sewing machine saying that theirs in the back of their closets that hasn't been used in 30 years (bought by their mother as a wedding present or something). They don't WANT to use a sewing machine on their quilt. They want to HAND piece and HAND quilt. Which is fine! Except many of the people who want to do all this HAND work get caught up in other things in life and those HAND pieces never get done.

Or they never get started...

"Oh, I wish I could make something like that... But it would take me a lifetime. I can't even START something so wonderful..."

and so the whatever stays in the imagination.

And some friends who say they DON'T want to do machine work WILL allow me to machine sew a border or a binding for them.... but THEY don't want to touch the machine. If you see a quilt by a Japanese artist you can be pretty sure that it is a 100% HAND made!

Anyway..... A few quilts chosen by me to show because of the use of oriental fabrics, beautiful quilting (that WHITE quilt has never had a cat near it!) and tiny piecing.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

A new cell phone

Yesterday Mrs. Ochiai spent most of the afternoon helping me buy a new cell phone. This is a long story...

I have always been sort of anti-cell phone. I don't like the way people hang onto their cell phones like it is an umbilical cord to society. For years I resisted owning a cell phone.

Of course Takumi and Leiya wanted cell phones when they were in school and about the time Leiya hit jr. high and Takumi hit high school, more and more young people carried around cell phones as a matter of course (and I heard many stories of irresponsibility!) Takumi bought his own cell phone when he was in high school paying for it with a part time job. Leiya we kept at bay saying when she went to high school she could have one though many of her jr. high friends were already carrying them around. (And now elementary school kids have them!)

But Leiya decided to go to the States for high school and I thought that meant I was saved from buying her a cell phone.


Well, I did but since she was only going to be in Japan 4 more months, I didn't see the point.

Around the same time, Tetsu's convalescent home adopted the policy of all employees carrying cell phones and though he too resisted, he felt it was "time". He and Leiya went to the cell phone shop and bought two phones on some family plan... And after four months, when Leiya went to the States, her cell phone was passed on to me. That was nearly 6 years ago...

But I have never liked my cell phone.

For one thing, it wouldn't do anything in English! Some of my friends' cell phones did English and they didn't even use the function! Why didn't mine? But it didn't. So that put a damper on learning how to use it... I could sort of call... I could sort of answer in-coming calls. I could sort of do text messaging...

A couple of years ago I threatened to throw away my cell phone. The only reason I ever opened it was to get the same text message that Tetsu sent me every night.

"Will be late. You go on to bed. Love you lots."

I rarely heard from anyone else. But by this time Tetsu felt the cell phone was a necessity and then this year my crosswalk position asked I always keep a cell phone handy in case of emergencies. Okay. I am a cell phone owner but with little interest.

Tetsu came home last week and said he'd gotten a message from the cell phone service saying that our old cell phones would no longer be operable and that we needed to change to a new style. He had already gone ahead and received a new cell phone from his office. He had talked with the service and told them they might as well give him another cell phone for his wife (me) on a private account. Anything would be fine. Free best. She didn't care about cell phones or use them.

WAIT A MINUTE!!! If I'm going to get a new cell phone I want to think about it a bit. It was Mrs. Ochiai who influenced me. She is always using her cell phone and talking about it's wonders... In fact she had long ago said if ever I should want to buy a new cell phone (she would look at my old one with disgust) then she wanted to be included in the purchasing process.

"Tetsu, I'm going to ask Mrs. Ochiai to help me pick out a cell phone. I want to know why people have fun with their cell phones! I want to enjoy my very own this time."

Tetsu thought this very strange. What is there to enjoy about a cell phone?

Mrs. Ochiai researched the cell phone industry on Thursday. (She visited three shops.) Yesterday, armed with the right questions and my own cell phone quirks (I'd like English please... How about usage when I visit the States?) I purchased my very own cell phone. PINK!!!

Okay... the rest of this post is for Leiya.

Leiya! My new cell phone is pink! It is called Besky and it is CUTE! How can a cell phone be cute? Well... First off I can change the key board if I want... There are different shaped buttons for easy use I guess. Sort of like playing paper dolls....

"Let me see... Maybe I will use the round buttons today!"

Granted, how many times does one want to change the key board, but I can! And the changeable keyboard lights up in seven different colors! Cool~!

And then... Even though the cover looks solid, it isn't! It somehow has hidden away lights and they flash a different configuration every time I open and close the phone. There are 10s of different little figures that show up on the cover each time my cell phone gets used. Dogs, cats, ducks, hearts, monkeys, clovers etc. etc. (As well as the time). I never know what I'm going to get next! Now THAT is CUTE~!

Okay... Telephone calling... E-mail... C-mail... Camera... Infrared information exchange... A step counter... A TV! Even a way to pay for purchases by passing the cell phone over a store register... Obviously I haven't figured out how to do that yet, but I will!

After purchasing, Mrs. Ochiai and I spent another hour in Starbucks while she went over the instruction book and tried to explain the different functions. And when I got home Mrs. Ochiai sent me (e-mail) a site for reading the instruction book in English so now I don't have any excuses NOT to learn how to be an expert cell phone user.

First off I e-mailed Tetsu.

"I bought a cell phone!!! PINK! I am going to learn how to use it!"

Tetsu couldn't believe I'd really done it. And when he came home he took one look at me...

"You sure look pleased with yourself..."

I took my cell phone with me on this morning's walk (5541 steps...) And here is a cell phone picture. Pretty good... pretty good...

I'm more sympathetic to umbilical cord cell phone users... You can't get me away from my cell phone today!

Friday, October 15, 2010


Toi is a real pain. He goes about life as he pleases... taking the best sitting spot, eating everyone's food, perfectly happy about how things revolve around him. In the mornings he and Patora get locked up in the laundry room (to keep the two of them from eating the other cats' food) and Patora goes completely crazy.

"Let me out of here!!!!"

Patora eats detergent boxes, paces back and forth on the washing machine so much that most days she runs the machine for me (if she hit two buttons consecutively the machine starts). She meows herself hoarse and bangs at the door knob trying to get out.

Toi? He settles down peacefully on a towel or some dirty clothes and naps amidst all of Patora's noise. And when I come in to let them out, Patora streaks by me while Toi leisurely yawns and stretches and sometimes just shifts position and goes back to sleep.

"I don't care. I'll come out later."

It sounds like Toi is a very laid back cat... and he is. Humans? Take them or leave them... Patora? He seems to like her. But the other cats?

"Let me at them!"

Already Velvet has psyche problems because of Toi's bullying. Vel is not allowed out of the sewing room because I've determined he is the peeing culprit. He does not like Toi and I guess wherever Toi has gone Vel feels the need to place his mark. Or when they happen to meet head on (and fight) then Vel pees right then and there... Sort of like a skunk.

And now Toi is starting to attack Cleo so Cleo lives up in the sewing room with Vel. I don't when this started regularly but the other day there was a MAJOR confrontation between Toi and Cleo. Toi would not let go! What a lot of noise and fur flying! I had to dump water on them to get them separated.

And Cleo came out the worse... His poor ear got torn! So now Toi (and Patora, she doesn't like Chip) has been banned to the cat house.

I really have too many cats. And YES, they ALL have been spayed and neutered!!!

Thursday, October 14, 2010


Okay... So much for pondering.

Yesterday was Wednesday and the busiest day of my week. I'm supposed to be at the kindergarten by 9:30 so I leave the house by 8:45. At 8:35 I got a phone call saying the children had another program today and that my services wouldn't be needed after all.

So, what does a woman with an extra 4 hours do? Long overdue housework? A little menu planning? No~~~! Sewing of course!

This project has been in the back of my mind since I bought Karen Eckmeir's book Accidental Landscapes. I made one at the end of the summer and was pleased with the results. Yesterday I got out a few blues and put another one together. It only took a couple of hours and truth be told the binding was the most tedious part.

I did a little experimenting and added some lace (look closely). By the way, that is supposed to be a beach scene... The only "drawback" to these landscapes is that they turn out small... Maybe 12 by 14 inches. I suppose they could be made larger but I follow directions and this is the size they turn out. It's a good size for a fabric picture... just not really "quilt" proportions.

This is another quilt made without anyone in mind. Maybe I'll send it to Takumi. He could put it behind his aquarium. Takumi! Do you want this? (Okay... Let's see if my son reads my blog...)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


Sometimes I wonder what I'm doing everyday... I work. I am sort of a housewife. I take care of animals. I make quilts. It seems like I should be doing more, especially in the patchwork department, and I'm not talking about quantity. I turn out a lot of quilts of all sizes. It makes for a lot of pondering and the end result is very fulfilling. It's nice to see those finishes.

But why am I making quilts? Sometimes the only reason I'm making them is to use up fabric. This seems like a dumb reason to me. Sometimes the reason is because I want to see if I CAN follow the directions or use the challenging fabrics.

"That's a new technique... Can I really make that quilt?"

Like solving puzzles I want to see IF I can do it. Another reason is because I am gratified by the praise I get... from friends nearby and blog.

These don't seem like good reasons to be making quilts. It all seems so selfish.

I haven't gotten involved in charity quilts except for the Prayers and Squares quilts that I make for people I know who are in need of one. My production is pretty sporadic and I don't think I'd be able to commit to a certain number of quilts a year etc. I even notice that when making a quilt, if I don't have someone in mind, my heart isn't in it and it is a boring sewing process not an act of giving. The piecing and quilting go much faster if I know so-and-so is going to receive the quilt.

It's a quandary. I am happy to see the many quilts that get made but embarrassed that they all belong to me. What would I be doing if I wasn't making quilts? Watching TV...

Why do you make quilts? Am I the only one who feels like I'm having too good a time just making?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Kindergarten Sports Day

I spent about a half an hour at the Mifumi Kindergarten Sports Festival yesterday (rescheduled from Saturday). Lots of children... 130? Lots of parents and grandparents and siblings. And in the case of THIS kindergarten, lots of 6th graders!

The Sports Day takes a lot of preparation and a lot of equipment. The children are introduced individually and stand on a simple "podium" of sorts. They do relays and dances and chalk lines are drawn in the dirt so the children know where they are to stand or run etc. There are balance beams and walls and ladders to climb, nets to crawl under. There are costumes and balls and tunnels and drums. About 30 teachers do the directing and guiding (inevitably some child doesn't know which way to go) and comforting (some skinned knees) and running to the bathrooms ("I've got to go NOW!") with a little one who can't wait. The 6th graders are the equipment team and they are responsible for the muscle work of carrying equipment and drawing lines and setting up the next event. They are all alumni and are invited back to help, given box lunches and introduced to the crowds. The Sports Festival becomes a sort of class reunion for them!

Another interesting rule of Mifumi Kindergarten is that the parents aren't allowed to take videos of their children. Most Sports Festivals have parents following their child around with the video cameras and in some places it looks like a televised interview with tens of parents vying for a good shooting spot. Mifumi asks a professional video photographer to set up cameras and take a video of the day but parents are asked to watch their child NOT through a video camera lens. (Cameras are okay.)

All the flags were hand painted by the children as were their t-shirts. Most of the music for the various events is live too. That teacher is looking out a window over the piano watching the progress of the events and playing fast or slow according to who's up for the next event. (And don't you like the baby hanging on the young mother's back?)

Kindergarten Sports Festival bring back some of the best memories of my children's younger years.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Carpentry finished!

Tetsu spent another day out in the yard hammering. And now I have.... Doors on my cupboard!

Well, he has solved the problem of the cats getting into the cupboard. I don't think this solves the peeing problem but I'll work on that one.

This took a lot of figuring for Tetsu... The left side door opens on hinges. The right side slides away behind the sink.

Let's see.. What else is there? The little thing on the floor was my attempt to keep the cats away. It is an air freshener that supposedly puffs citrus freshener whenever someone walks by. The theory was that it was going to keep the cats away. It didn't work.

The grill hanging on the side is my dish drainer! The big dish drainers (there are such things in Japan) didn't fit anywhere and lived eternally on the counter... And that's all the counter there is in this kitchen! The grill can slide over the sink too so I double my space.

And this is the original set of shelves that Tetsu was making for the kitchen that ended up in my sewing room. Not too much in there yet but Chip likes it.

Tetsu is satisfied that he fulfilled his promise to get me a cupboard with doors. And I must say it looks pretty good!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Rainy day

Yesterday was a rainy day and unfortunately the kindergarten Sports Festival had to be rescheduled for Monday. Mrs. Furui and I had been planning to attend but suddenly we were faced with a free day. What to do? Patchwork!

Actually, applique. I bundled up most of my recently purchased applique tools and went to Mrs. Furui's house where I demonstrated the used of the applique sheet, the craft iron, the stiletto, and showed her how I'd learned to use double freezer paper, and ironing starch. Mrs. Furui is pretty much of an expert at applique anyway but she was interested to see how the use of the tools could result in a perfectly prepared applique block that only needed to be sewn. Mrs. Furui finished preparing her August block for A Tisket a Tasket and I worked on and completely finished my October block.

And Mrs. Furui gave me the prettiest book called "A Prayer for Little Things" by Eleanor Farjeon. It is an old book, originally published in 1945 and the illustrations are adorable. Mrs. Furui found a version in Japanese and English and gave it to me as an early Christmas present. If you see it in a bookstore give it a look.