Friday, May 31, 2013

A finished quilt and progress...

We had a fun and profitable Thursday Patchwork Day yesterday. 

Mrs. Furui finished up her Summer quilt for the hospital!   I spent the morning sewing down the binding.

This turned out to be a collaborative project.  Mrs. Furui did the planning and applique (all those freehand stripes and circles!) and I did most of the quilting.  I hand-quilted to my heart's content and probably added a lot more swirls and curves than Mrs. Furui expected.  But, it is done!

The cute little elves (that we don't want you to miss) are a take off from the hospital wall paper in the children's ward.  We couldn't think of a good name for this quilt... "Summer Elves"...  "Water Play"...?  Mrs. Furui will get this up on the hospital wall sometime next week name or no name.

Oh dear...  We all forgot to take pictures of the bazaar quilt that we basted.  I guess everyone was too busy crawling around on the floor with needle and thread.  That quilt is officially out of our hands and will go to a friend who will machine quilt it for us.  The bazaar isn't until November...  We are way ahead of ourselves!

Mrs. Yamaguchi spent the day getting her quilt blocks all together into one piece.  (Still in the layout stage here but she did sew it all together yesterday).  She will add white borders and then trace a quilting pattern on it.  Maybe feathers?

There were another couple of projects that have made progress... but more about that tomorrow.

Thursday, May 30, 2013


A typical evening in front of the TV.

My sleeping beauties... Neither of them ever have any idea of what we've been watching.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

From the misc. photo file

Let's see... what do I have in my miscellaneous photo file...

A typical shot of Tetsu and Choco in the early morning.

We see a lot of herons' eggs around on the forest floor.  Pretty blue things.  I have a suspicion that the crows steal the eggs and then drop them and crack them open.  I feel sorry for the herons but we do have an overcrowding of the heron population right now...

Here is Mi inspecting my malfunctioning camera lens (I used the other lens to take the picture.)

Another early morning view of the countryside.

Okay... I've got to go.  Time to close down my computer and take it to the kindergarten!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013


Today's post is outside my normal range of interests but I wandered through an azalea exhibition yesterday on my way out of the pool facilities.  My area of Japan is having all sorts of azalea festivals this week.

There is a whole art involved with raising azaleas.  Since the bush in my yard blooms haphazardly and doesn't look particularly beautiful, I don't have a lot of respect for azaleas but obviously I've been missing the flora world of possibilities...

There were hundreds of azalea "trees" at this exhibition, all pruned and encouraged to grow in many different containers and directions.  I suppose this is considered a type of bonsai... miniature tree manipulation.  Such a burst of color!  And all the potted azaleas looked regal in their honored places positioned on polished wooden diases.

Look at the roots on that one!  How did someone get that thing to grow?

This was my favorite.  I was drawn to the asymmetry and balance. 

Was I inspired to go out and prune my azalea bushes?  Nah...  I'm not much of a gardener.  I'm going back to my sewing.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Punk clerk

Headaches, headaches.

Would you believe it?  My camera stopped working yesterday!!!  With blood pounding in my head I got out the box that it had been shipped in and checked the warranty.

Expired April 2.  GRRRRRRR!!

I grabbed box and camera and went to my local camera shop with all sorts of scenerios in my head.

In a slightly deranged state I was ready to accost the store manager when a young female clerk got to me first.

"May I help you?"

"Yes.  I want to speak with someone who KNOWS cameras."  I looked meaningfully towards the store manager.

"Yes... Well, I can help you."

Hah!  This GIRL had white and purple punk hair.  She was wearing vibrant green color contact lenses.  She had huge Hello Kitty glasses on with no lenses.  Her fingernails were an inch long and sparkly black.  This punk clerk knows cameras?

I explained my camera issue and the girl very deftly manipulated the camera and considered what the problem might be.  She jiggled and cleaned and blew at different parts of my camera and finally determined that the lens was malfunctioning...  Maybe (oh, I hope!) not the camera.  She gave me information on getting an estimate for repairs, or buying a new lens, or replacing the whole kit and kaboodle (NO!!!)  The punk clerk was polite and knowledgeable and very helpful. 

I'm not pleased that I've had to send off my camera lens for an estimate nor that it costs to have it estimated nor that the repair fee will run half the price of the whole camera outfit.  But what else can I do?

"When you send that lens to the Olympus company make sure they know that the customer (ME!) is extremely dissatisfied with a lens that only lasted a year plus...  I am NOT happy!"

But I was a little embarrassed at my previous assumption that this punk girl might not know her cameras.

"A apologize for my earlier attitude and assuming that you might not know about cameras."

"Oh... well... though my appearance may be outlandish I happen to be the assistant manager of the store."
A lesson on not making snap judgements for me...

And now I am without my main camera lens for a few weeks.  Hopefully I can still photo with the telescopic lens and a close-up lens that I have...

Obviously my cell phone camera is not up to my Olympus standards...

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Computer wonders

Yesterday Tetsu and I attended Takumi's graduation.

"What?  I'm getting confused.  I thought he graduated in February...  I thought he lived in California and Tanya lived in Japan."

Correct on both points.  Takumi received his diploma (smiling picture of him here) in February.  He has since found a job and is working in California.  But his graduation ceremony was held yesterday in Long Beach.  And Tetsu and I attended via the Internet!!!!  Such a computer wonder world we live in!

Takumi had sent me a link earlier this week saying he hoped we could find him on the big day.  Yesterday morning (our time 9:00 Saturday morning, Takumi's time 5:00 Friday afternoon) Tetsu and I settled down in front of my computer and tuned in to Cal State Long Beach University's commencement ceremonies.

"I see him!  I see Takumi!"

In the hundreds of kids graduating, on my somewhat blurry computer screen, I spotted my son.

Tetsu and I perched on the edge of the sofa for the next hour listening to speeches (me translating for Tetsu) and then finally watching as the graduate students filed across the ceremony stage when their names were called.

"Is that him back there?"

"No... Maybe that boy?"

But when Takumi got close to the stage Tetsu and I both pointed at the computer screen.


From across over 5000 miles of ocean Tetsu and I watched a smiling Takumi cross the university stage, receive his diploma case (he'd received his diploma before) and shake the college president's hand.

Tetsu TRIED to take a picture of Takumi on the computer... Not very successful I'm afraid.  Consider it pop-art?  It is our proof that both Tetsu and I attended Takumi's graduation ceremony.

What a wonderful world!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

The neighborhood bread shop

There is a bread shop that I pass on my way to town.  I go often enough that everyone knows me and I will buy bread and eat it at the picnic bench outside their shop.
For a little bakery there are certainly a lot of different kinds of bread. There are lunch breads with cheese or vegetables or curry and of course sandwiches...  How about a fried noodle sandwich?  (Hmm.  Not my choice either.)  There are dessert breads such as custard cream bread, chocolate cream bread and sweet bean paste bread. 

There are all sorts of cute beads too... Little bears, bunnies, Totoro (a Japanese character) and superheroes. 

How about some paw print bread?  When I visit the bread shop I always get the impression that the baker has a lot of fun thinking up new types of bread.

These were new... fish bread.... There seem to be fish sticks inside...

W~o~w!  Yes, that is what you think it is...  It is named "oppai bread" so now you know the Japanese word for br--sts.  It is filled with milk cream.  I don't think the owner was being ribald...  Oppai bread seems to be a popular bread with the neighborhood children.

I love walking into the bread shop!  Such an aroma!  What shall I have for today's lunch?

Friday, May 24, 2013


Have you noticed that I haven't been making very many prayer quilts lately?  I have.  There are two reasons.  One is, thankfully I haven't had many people who "needed" a prayer quilt.  The other reason is that I've been having second thoughts about making prayer quilts.

Over the past 5 or 6 years I have made many prayer quilts.  I even joined the Prayer and Square organization and followed their rules about asking a person if they would appreciate a quilt that has been prayed over.  (No prayer quilt surprises!)  Some recipients have been church members.  Some have been friends.  One man was someone I knew in the neighborhood who wasn't Christian and didn't have much hope for his future.  Most of the recipients have been returned to health but a few have not.

There have been many situations though resulting from the prayer quilts and not all have been good.  MOST people when asked if they would like a prayer quilt have received the offer gratefully.  But some haven't.  One man became upset because he took the offer to mean that people were giving up on him.  He left the church angry.  My sister-in-law's quilt for her mother got LOST in the prayer chain and that definitely put a strain on Marcy's heart and she has had to pull up an extra supply of forgiveness.

And my friend who recently has been in the hospital declined the offer of a prayer quilt saying she would rather not have people focus on HER health but on their own.  Ah~~ if this dear friend of mine feels that way... then maybe I have been stepping on people's toes.  What it boils down to is that the person in need of prayer (and we all are in need of prayer!) has the correct answer and not I.  Tetsu suggested that in some cases my timing might be better... but each person accepts their illness in their own way and in their own time.

Tetsu asked me if I were in the same situation would I want a prayer quilt... and I think the answer is yes for me.  It is a cheery reminder of people's love.  It is a symbol of God's lessons in my life.  But not everyone thinks the same way... 

Which makes me think that I should not be so actively involved in making prayer quilts... this activity which was so close to my heart.

I am still going to pray.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Rice planting class!

The elementary school 5th graders had a "Rice Planting Class" this week.  Each year the 5th grade class learns how to plant rice and then come autumn they will experience cutting the rice.  Finally their harvested rice will be served at a school lunch.

Rice planting this year happened on a morning when I was around and I hurried over at the appointed time.  The rice field is a narrow one near the road and every year the farmer who owns it prepares it for planting with his tractor, floods it for the children and then conducts a rice planting class.
As I learned yesterday (I listened in to the class) there are 88 steps to produce a harvest of rice...  The children did only one of those steps yesterday.  (And for my Japanese readers, did you know that the Chinese character for RICE is made up of the strokes for 88?  . 八on top, 十 in the middle, and 八 again on the bottom.)

Anyway... the children walked over to the rice field and shed their shoes.

The parents who were there to help divided the slats of rice into manageable portions for the children to hold.

A string with markers attached had been stretched across the flooded field and the children were lined up along the bank and told to step down into the mud.

You should have heard the screams from the girls!  It seems that rice field mud is warm and oozy and grabs hold of toes and ankles.  Some of the children started floundering amidst a lot of laughter and squelching around.

"Help!  This feels so weird!"

"I'm going to fall over!"

"Teacher, the mud is splashing up on my legs!"

To which the teacher replied  "Then stand still!"

Finally the planting began.  The farmer instructed the children to pull off two or three stems of rice from the portion they had been given and then the rice was to be pressed down into the mud under the string marker.

One girl made the observation,  "Why does my nose have to start itching NOW!?"

And of course I just laughed along with everybody and aimed my camera.

Gradually the hilarity died down and the planting got underway.

In a short time the class of 30 some children had a row of rice planted and they were instructed to take a step back and the string marker was moved back a few inches.  Then the next row could be planted the same was as the first.

A few minutes after the rice planting started, the 1st grade class walked over from the school to watch the fun.

I'm afraid I had to leave about then so I only got to see the first two rows planted.

As I got back in my car I heard some screams and laughter and caught a glimpse of a teacher pulling one child up from his SITTING position in the mud.  Missed that photo chance...  Falling into the mud is probably a norm in this class...

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Tiny sewing again

What are these?

My watch band broke a couple of weeks ago and I've been meaning to go buy a new one.  Boring black or brown.

I remembered coming across an article in a June, 2004 Fons and Porter magazine about making a watch band.  Is that really possible?

Well, it is possible but it is a lot of work too!  So tiny!  The magazine article gave instructions for a crazy quilt type of watch band.  I wanted triangles..  And after sewing, turning these little things right side out was a real bear!!!

The watch spring bars go through loops of grosgrain ribbon...  And let me tell you, that ribbon frays pretty easily.  I had to make three tries.  And it pulls there too so I reinforced my top-stitch quite heavily... Not the neatest job.

The magazine suggested using Velcro.  I looked at my old broken watch band lying beside the sewing machine and wondered if I could reuse the gold clasp instead...  It would mean punching a hole or two in the band... It would mean adding a flap loop...

I did it!  My watch now has a new watchband.  I don't know how sturdy this is going to be... Maybe I can learn from experience and the next one I make will go smoother.