Friday, June 29, 2012

Patchwork Thursday June

Patchwork yesterday but I can't say that we got very much done. We are still working on the bazaar quilt... What to do about block placement... What to do about borders...

Here is Mrs. Furui looking pensive about our quilt.

Mrs. Harada finished putting together her Pineapple blocks (this was our game quilt... ). Almost all of these blocks were put together by hand and let me tell you, we all found this a dilly to do. Not that it was difficult, but Pineapple blocks aren't INTERESTING to hand piece. (Mrs. Okutomi cleverly did hers by paper piecing.)

Don't you like the star that was formed just by a couple of us putting diamonds in the corners of our blocks?

Here I am trying to take a good picture of Mrs. Harada's quilt.

And proof that I did more than drink tea, eat snacks and chat yesterday. I DID do some sewing.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Early in the week

Miscellaneous pictures today...

We had a lot of rain last week (well, we're in the rainy season) and I found interesting spider web sculptures in the early morning. I'm sure the webs are there even in good weather but they are just not as visible as they are after a rain.

This is what the webs look like on the bushes...

And this is looking BETWEEN the web and the bushes... The webs catch the rain like a net.

Yesterday at the kindergarten the children were excited about the baby bunnies that were born not too long ago.

Three weeks ago the mama bunny was still keeping her babies hidden in the hutch. Last week when I saw them (I forgot my bag last week right? No camera that day!) they were no bigger than my thumb and no one was allowed to touch them.

This week, they have doubled their growth and the children have supervised access. Cutest little things!!! (Bunnies AND children of course.)

Do I want a bunny? Yes, I do but I will spare a bunny the trials of trying to live with cats. No bunnies for me. But they are so sweet.


And this week five of us who many years ago were kindergarten mother friends, went out for a long lunch. Mrs. Kaneko moved to other places in Japan in March but she was back for a job. Mrs. Watanabe (same name... not me) lives in California (same state, not me) and she was back for a two week vacation. We got caught up in chatting for a couple of hours and finally were told the restaurant was closing so everyone came back to my house for an hour before my teaching began. My cats were very friendly and though my friends are dog lovers, they were enchanted by friendly Mi.

A good week so far!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Tokyo post three

Didn't think I could get three posts out of a day trip to Tokyo did you!

From the Imperial Palace we got back in the car and went looking for Meiji Shrine, the largest shrine in Japan. Finding parking for Meiji Shrine was the problem (not finding Meiji Shrine) but once the car was parked we walked back to the shrine and entered another world.

Passing under the shrine gates, we were suddenly surrounded by GREEEEN!! The tall buildings of Tokyo were left behind and the sounds and smells became soft and mossy and damp.

Not so many people around and those there walked reverently to the main shrine area.

The inner gates to the shrine had the Imperial emblem of the Chrysanthemum... did the lanterns along the outer walkways.

As with most shrines, there was an area for posting prayers on the tree and along the wall. For about $5, a prayer plate could be purchased and the written prayers submitted to the priests. They were displayed on this wall about 10 deep and it was very interesting to see all the prayers in many many different languages.

Probably the most interesting part of visiting the shrine was seeing the weddings that were being performed there... Well, not seeing the weddings themselves, but watching as the wedding party passed through the inner courtyard and into the shrine itself. Tetsu spotted this wedding party ahead of us and said

"Run. You can get a picture!"

Run? Am I even allowed to take a picture? But there seems to be an understanding that tourists can run along like papparazzi taking pictures of the weddings so I did my best to stay out of other photographers' ways and took my pictures.

The bride and groom were wearing tradition wedding finery, (the white hood hiding the horns of jealousy) and the bride was being guided by one of the Go-betweens (rather than a bride's maid). I would assume that the man in Morning wear is one of the fathers or the other Go-between. The girls in front wearing red are shrine workers. (By the way... those girls must have long un-dyed, un-permed hair and may not have pierced ears. Hard to find nowadays in Japan!)

The bride certainly looks happy! She nodded to us tourists as she went by.

A few minutes later, another party was leaving the shrine AFTER the ceremonies so I joined the throng taking pictures then too. This bride wasn't wearing as traditional a bridal costume as the first bride, but she too was very photogenic.

(I got some great close-ups of this bride. Too bad I don't know where to send them too! I fancy myself a professional photographer!)

Anyway, Meiji Shrine is a must to visit if you are ever in Tokyo. A very beautiful Japanese world...

And stepping back out of the shrine gardens we entered..... (really, just a few yards away!)

HARAJUKU!!! The funky shopping area for Japan's youth!!! Completely on the other side of the Japanese spectrum! Tetsu and I held on to each other (just so we wouldn't get separated) and shuffled along with our mouths open! We were probably the oldest couple on the street and some of the costumes and make-up that the teenagers wore were worthy of a circus act!

Well, if you are of the younger generation, Harajuku seems to be the mecca of Japan, but if you are my age, I think you'll prefer the quiet of Meiji Shrine!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Tokyo tourists

After out trip to the fish market (buying nothing), Tetsu and I went looking for the Imperial Palace.

One "problem" of sightseeing in Tokyo is that there are so many people and so many cars and not enough parking areas. Well, for a price there are parking areas but they are few and far between. I was always surprised when I heard of people living in Tokyo who had never owned a car or even had a driver's license. How can one live without a car? But in Tokyo I can imagine that it might be easier to move around using the trains and subways rather than fight traffic. (This had been my point exactly when Tetsu was planning our visit. Wouldn't it be easier to use Tokyo's great public transportation system?) The closer we got to the center of Tokyo, the more expensive the parking areas, and for monthly use of a parking spot (for example for someone living in a condominium) I noticed one place that was asking about $400 a month! Leiya pays less than that for her apartment in Ohio!

Anyway, we did park the car ("I wonder how much this is going to cost me for two hours parking...") and then wandered into the Imperial grounds. Of course there are inner gardens and outer gardens and a moat separates them with guards manning the gates and entrances. So actually, we couldn't see the palace at all, just a large expanse of outer park, a moat and the large trees beyond the walls.

Even so, in this bustling metropolis it seems like an oasis of quiet and people were picnicking on the well cared for lawns or napping on the benches. There also seemed to be a marathon going on with colorful runners circling the vast grounds.

This is the scenery in one direction.

And this is the scenery in the other direction.

The two guards at the far gate reminded me of the guards at Buckingham Palace... but these guards seemed to turn their heads and check out the tourists to the left and right.

Tetsu holding up one of the back gates.

And we took a short (long) walk over to the Diet Building. No one there. (But there was a political protest going on in other places in Tokyo about the proposed tax increase.)

On to other places! (parking for two hours was about $12)

Sunday, June 24, 2012


It seems that Tetsu's mission in life is to take me to interesting places on the weekends. I'm not sure if he's doing it for me or for my blog... (What he does for my blog is really for me anyway.) Tetsu has been talking about taking me to Tsukiji, which is a fish market in Tokyo. Now to be honest, I have no interest in seeing a fish market. We live far enough away that BUYING fish would not be feasible (not that we eat enough fish to make a special three hour trip to a fish market anyway), but Tetsu made his plans that I half-heartedly acquiesced to.

We left home at 5:45 and WITHOUT using the highway, headed for Tokyo. I don't know why Tetsu doesn't like to use the highway (costs money?) We arrived in Tsukiji around 9:00, too late to see the tuna auctioning but time enough to wander the stalls and narrow alleys looking at fish.

Tsukiji has turned into an interesting phenomenon in Japan. It has been Japan's "kitchen" for hundreds of years, wholesaling goods to businesses in Tokyo and is one of the largest markets in the world. Along with the shops and stalls, there is a whole area that is devoted to feeding the workers who spend their day in the market, but a few years ago the market and food businesses became popular with tourists. The hundreds and thousands of sightseers overran the market until it was difficult for the sellers to operate their business and recently many of the areas are closed to tourists in order for wholesale businesses to run smoothly. The auctioning area is now only open to tourists with reservations. If yesterday was any indication, that hasn't deterred the tourists a bit!

Tetsu had a vague idea that he wanted to eat sushi at the fish market. Well, just the first row of shops had 6 to 8 sushi places (along with ramen shops, domburi shops, curry booths etc.) with major lines blocking the alleys   The shopkeepers meticulously kept adjusting the lines and directing people out of the way of the mini-forklifts that barrelled their ways through the crowds. (They have the right of way).

We ended up joining a line and stood for about an hour watching the earlier customers (a whole nine were all that could fit in the shop) eat sushi. When we finally got inside, our stomachs were growling.

Authentic sushi chefs at an authentic fish market! The little shop was so small that the lady serving tea had to continually apologize as she crab-stepped behind our stools trying to get to the other seven customers, but it was worth the wait!

I don't know about you, but that looks like a plate of sparkling jewels to me! Absolutely beautiful! Let me tell you, you can't find sushi like this in California (nor probably even in Nikko!)

Just for the record, the miso-soup had shrimp heads in it... makes the broth even more delicious! Get over having a shrimp looking up at you if the soup is this good!

I finally stopped taking pictures and enjoyed my sushi. Usually I'll leave one or two pieces of sushi for Tetsu (he's the bigger eater, right?) Sorry Tetsu-san, I'm eating this ALL myself today!

Well, the trip to the fish market was a success for us just because of the sushi!

Friday, June 22, 2012


Yesterday I set to work on getting my Scrappy Trip Around the World put together. It was pretty much hit and miss as I picked up blocks and sewed them together and this is the result.

This will be a donation quilt and needs to be a bit bigger all the way around. I could add a couple plain borders or I could use the bunch of 2 inch 5x5 blocks that I have started (but no way near enough for a border...) As there is no deadline for this I guess I'll just keep making more 5x5 blocks and sometime this coming fall this might all "fall" together. Isn't it nice to be flexible?

I also drew quilting motifs on my Star Within a Star flimsy. And pulled out backing fabric. So the next step will be basting this... and laying it aside until I can spend a long block of time machine quilting.

And my Alabama Beauty is waiting... and my embroidery blocks.

My WIP are piling up.

Thursday, June 21, 2012


What's new? Not much I guess. Wednesday is my busy day but it is all pretty routine.

Wednesdays I do crosswalk duty from 7:30 to 8:00.

After that I leave home by 8:45 and go to the kindergarten. There I have two 5 year old classes, 2 four year old classes and 1 three year old class. For each class I bring story books (often different books for each age) posters, props, (a clock this week) and this computer because I have teaching videos in it. Of course mouse and computer cord.

At lunch time I make a quick stop at Starbucks or MacDonalds or someplace and spend about 45 minutes eating and reading my Kindle.

From 1:15 I'm at some friend's house for a ladies English class. I bring the books we use and an electronic dictionary.

From 4:00 I'm on the other side of town with three elementary school students. With them I use different books and workbooks, the computer and accessories, a white board with marker and eraser, and usually a card game or something to play if we have any time left over.

All this means that I leave my house on Wednesday morning with three or four large bags; (one is the Long Beach Quilt Festival bag!) English bags, computer bag, handbag. (Heaven forbid I start carrying around my camera bag too!) Every week I get to one place or another and realize I've forgotten one or two things. No marker, or no cell phone, or no Kindle, or no money... It is always something. I get so dang annoyed with myself. I usually blame it on my frenzied attempts to get out of the house Wednesday morning on time.

Yesterday I had an extra hour (no crosswalk duty because of the typhoon). I carefully packed my bags.

"All my books? Check! My Kindle and cell phone? Check! Check! Computer mouse? Check! Kindergarten posters? Game? Check! Check! Money? (I slipped money into my electronic dictionary) Check! I have absolutely everything! Nothing being forgotten on a Wednesday will be a first with me!"

I loaded the car and left the house at 8:45. I stopped at the gas station to buy gasoline.

Where is my handbag? NO HANDBAG! I'd left the whole BAG in the entryway! That meant no wallet, no Kindle, no driver's license, no cell phone, no lipstick. NO MONEY! Wait. Here is my electronic dictionary. I do have money.

I filled my gas tank and the attendant wanted to know if I had a members' card.

"No. I forgot my card."

And everything else.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


Japan was visited by a typhoon last night and trains and flights were cancelled, people were stranded in stations. In my part of the country we tied down our patio umbrella and closed up the house as tightly as possible. The school principal called me to let me know that school starting time had been delayed by two hours so crosswalk duty time had changed (but I told him that I need to be at the kindergarten by that time so someone else will cover for me this morning.) Last night we went to bed with the wind howling and the rain beating down on the windows at all sides of the house.

This morning the world is bright and sparkling, the typhoon having passed through Japan and headed back out to sea. I never got word that school starting time was back to regular hours so I feel like I'm playing hookey not being at the crosswalk and instead enjoying a beautiful morning.

The roads were covered with leaves and branches and the rice fields overflowed sending minnows and tadpoles to swim along the roads in search of drains. Tetsu did have to fix a fence that had fallen over but for the most part the typhoon just washed our part of the country clean.

So last night during the typhoon I got in a little quilting. My Alabama Beauty is still going slowly. I'd really like to finish this before I head to the States this summer (less than a month away) but every time I look at it there are still more and more circles to quilt (and not too visible at that for all the work I'm putting in.)

I love to hear the sound of rain while sewing at home comfy and safe.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Looking at sewing machines

Yesterday I went looking at sewing machines. Wow. A lot more expensive that what I was figuring. If it were ME buying the machine, I guess I'd go for more expensive with some of the extra conveniences. But for my friends who are new sewers? Who like to have me standing over them when they use the sewing machine? Do they need to pay $800 or more for a machine that they might not use that much? I'm not planning to move in to their houses...

Test driving a couple machines yesterday made me realize what I like about my own machine right now. Little things like just popping the bobbin in the bobbin winder without having to pull the thread through the little hole first... And a cutter right there at the bobbin winding site... no need for scissors. And a thread cutter right at the bobbin cradle... no need for scissors again. And the built-in thread cutter after sewing... Hmmm. It sounds like I have something against scissors.

On my test drive I realized how annoying it is not to understand the threading path... and actually some of those machines didn't have such clear instructions on the machines. I decided right away that if the store clerk and I both couldn't figure out how the threading system worked or what the buttons meant without looking at the instruction booklet, then this was not a machine I wanted.

I guess I'll have to take my friends with me on my next jaunt. They really need to try the machines out themselves. It's THEIR money!