Monday, August 30, 2010

Tessellating cats... done for awhile

For me, this year's Japanese summer will be remembered as the tessellating cats in the sauna.

I don't know when my sewing room has been so uncomfortable! No air conditioning up there and I was afraid to turn on the small electric fan because I was already having problems keeping all the little squares and triangles organized! So I just sewed and dripped.

Tessellating Cats doesn't have a border yet and there is still a lot of handwork to do (embroider eyes and whiskers on all these cats!) but the main THINKING part is done. All my cats are up there in bright cheerful colors!

I could have given a bit more consideration to my color choices... I thought I HAD! I planned this out but I see I could have pondered a bit longer. The purple cat is made of two colors and the darker triangles get lost next to the black. On the other side the yellow-pink cat got too mixed up with the yellow background. And here I thought I was doing so well putting it in the middle of the quilt... Ah well... That yellow by the way has tiny little mice on it with cheese blocks? Hmm. I guess that's what those are trying to be. I doubt that anyone is ever going to look that closely at this quilt but I liked the idea of the cats being surrounded by mice... See... I did give this quilt a lot of thought.

I'm proud of myself for getting this done fairly quickly and for being so adventurous in using brights. Many of these are from way back when the Calico Cat sent me some of her bright left overs. And I'm proud of myself for not giving into the temptation to chuck it all and go take a nap in front of the downstairs air conditioning!

Work starts for me tomorrow again... Even though Tessellating Cats isn't finished I'm ready to start something new... (Can you see more UFO's piling up?)

Sunday, August 29, 2010


I didn't know until I married Tetsu that he ground his teeth. He's a pretty serious grinder. There was one summer when my mother visited us and though we slept with a sliding paper door separating us, one night my mother slid open the door and peered down at us.

"Tani. I think there's a frog by Tetsu's pillow. Listen."

"Grr-ibbet, grr-ibbet."

"Um... No. That's Tetsu grinding his teeth."

Tetsu woke up about then and was surprised to see his new mother-in-law squatting on the floor beside him looking down into his face (we're sleeping on futon.) I explained that my mother had thought she heard a frog.

"Your mother looks sort of a like a frog squatting there." and he rolled over and went back to sleep.

So I've lived with grinding in my ear for 30 some years. (And snoring... and irregular breathing... Tetsu's a noisy sleeper.)

About a week ago, Tetsu pointed out that he'd chipped his front tooth and Saturday he went to the dentist to have it repaired. He came back so pleased at how nicely his tooth had been fixed and he said that the dentist thought it might have been a stress break from teeth grinding.

"How can anyone chip their teeth when they're sleeping?"

I, on the other hand who know his habits, thought it was highly possible.

That was Saturday.

This morning (Monday) Tetsu woke up and swore slightly.

"Oh no. Look! That tooth I had fixed is chipped again! I must have done it in my sleep last night."

Tetsu is off to the dentist again today...

As I say, he is a pretty serious grinder... Grr-ibbet, grr-ibbet.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Starbucks break

Yesterday, after spending the morning in the sewing room I tried to escape the heat again. I had some work to do on my computer and though I could have turned the air conditioner on at home and worked, I opted to go to Starbucks. If I stay at home my patchwork calls to me or housecleaning (that voice isn't too loud.)

I normally have no problem with Starbucks. A sandwich is nice. They always have something refreshing or warming (depending on the season) and it feels like a treat to go and spend some time there with a book or paperwork. Yesterday was the first time I've taken my computer to the Japanese Starbucks. I know enough not to expect Starbucks in Japan to have WiFi. That's why I figured I could take my computer and not get waylaid reading blogs.

Settle down with a sandwich and a cool Yuzu Frappuccino (yuzu is a Japanese citrus fruit). Yum. Spend about an hour and a half doing what I had to do on the computer. Ah. The battery is running low.

"Excuse me. Could I use this electric outlet for my computer?"

I was sitting right next to one. The girl went away and came back a moment later.

"I'm so sorry. Customers are not allowed to use the outlets."

In a way I'm not surprised... In Japan, what isn't available for everyone isn't available for anyone (the outlet was only by my table, not any others.) On the other hand, an extra service option would have kept me there another hour and maybe sold me a cookie or pastry or something. Don't college students in America hang out at Starbucks with their computers? Is the electricity so dear in US Starbucks too?

I did NOT finish my work and came home to procrastinate...

Seems to me Starbucks could have made a little more money off of me and made me happier too.

Suggestion box open

My blogger friend June, sent me another package. This time all the way to Japan! June is the long arm quilter who quilted my Orange and Cherry Jubilee quilt for me this summer. When she sent that package back she also included some kitty and doggie fabrics and yesterday's package contained more~!

All together I count 20 kitty fat quarters from June. And I'm sure if I paw around in my drawers I have at least 4 more. That's not counting the doggie fabrics. So. The question is:

What sort of pattern should I make? Any ideas?

I have a feeling I want to make an I SPY type of quilt for my mother... Maybe only the kitty fabrics (but she loves doggies too...) If the fabrics butt up against each other like in the Wicked Easy quilts, I think the cute designs will get lost. How about bordering each square...? Is that called a charm quilt? Or making Bonnie's I Spy a Four Patch? But even that might be too busy... A hexagon quilt? Isn't that hard to make? Probably something that doesn't cut into the fabric very much.

I would really welcome some ideas here since I'd like to make this quilt next (my mom isn't getting any younger).

And June also sent some bright fabrics for my Alabama Beauty (which is unofficially on hold until I get other things done.)

AND June's daughter sent me a beautiful cut of African wax resist fabric. Isn't that a wonderful pattern? That will have to go on the "future quilts" list for now... but it is a shame to hide it away in a drawer...

Patora is pondering the kitty fabric quilt but she hasn't come up with any great ideas yet. Suggestions welcome!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Tessellating cats

Despite the heat, I have been up in the sewing room. Remember when I spent all day cutting fabric? I divied them all up into little plastic bags and decided to see if I could sew them together. This is my start on Tessellating Cats.

As always, somewhere along the line I've mis-cut and different triangles are missing or I've cut different squares into triangles when they weren't supposed to be. That's not really the disaster that it could be because the kitties can be made either in one fabric or many (so just replace the mis-cut pieces with other fabric) but I'm telling you! The organization required to make this quilt is a major challenge for my feeble brain. I am getting very good at un-sewing.

It takes me about one day to make one vertical panel (there are two panels there right now) and I have four panels to go. If I don't get this done before summer vacation is over I may never figure out what I was trying to do. Back to the sauna/sewing room I go.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


Last weekend, in another attempt to escape the heat, Tetsu and I went out to a river to listen to the gurgling water and sample some river fish. River fish is not my favorite but it does seem like that is what we should eat while we are watching a river.

Japanese love ayu (translated as a "sweetfish" in my Japanese-English dictionary) and the small visitor's area where we ended up had a fishing trap built along the river that ayu will swim into. Actually I don't object to the taste of ayu but rather the way it is served. Gulp. Fresh ayu are speared and "sewn" onto a skewer and then salted and stuck around a low burning fire. And then served... Just like that. This way of eating river fish is traditional throughout Japan, but for us foreigners it takes some getting used to. To eat ayu you just pick up the skewer and bite. I keep my mind on other things while the crispy fish face brushes my cheek.

"Oh yes, Tetsu. The ayu is delicious. No please go ahead. One ayu is enough for me."

Now THIS is the type of fish I like! The same day, Tetsu and I stopped for taiyaki which is a sweet pancake with different things inside. In this case I enjoyed the sweet bean paste and green tea whipped cream. Yum!!! And these cute bite sized pieces had bean paste or custard cream or chocolate inside them. A surprise in every bite!

Now would you prefer the ayu or the taiyaki? Take your pick!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Nikko scenery

Yesterday I went with a couple of friends to a nearby "hiking" course. The area is called Kirifuri Kogen, which means Misty Plains, and it lived up to its name!

I think in the winter this used to be a small ski course because there was a series of ski lifts taking us up the mountain. The old lift is being torn down soon and so the month of August was designated for its last run. Such fun! The temperature was a welcome escape from the city's heat, the air smelled of green and rain. A few small flowers, rolling clouds, the sounds of birds. A real taste treat for the senses.

I loved the lift. It felt like a child's ride in an amusement park. 4 lifts in all so we got quite a ride!

The fog just ROLLED in, sometimes turning the morning dark and always giving our skin a dousing.

Supposedly one is supposed to be able to see Mt. Fuji in the distance but today all we could see was the fog.

Watching newer shapes of clouds form and drift off into the sky made me feel like we were on another planet.

Major frizz time for me.

In almost any hiking area in Japan the paths will cut through the low bamboo.

Flowers and more flowers... I don't know what.

Everyone needs a breather.

We got scooted off the mountain by the lift workers because a thunder storm was coming in. That was a little exciting to be hanging onto the lift arm while the lightning flashed!

A great way to cool off on a hot summer day!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Introducing a blog

Yesterday I spent ALL day cutting fabric! Yes, I've started another project and I certainly didn't realize how much cutting was involved. (Which means there is going to be a lot of sewing involved too, right? That's what makes it patchwork, Tanya.) I am starting on the Tessellating cats project from the pattern Mona sent me and I hope to use some of the brights that don't often find their ways into my quilts. Don't hold your breath.

And I also made August's BOM from A Tisket A Tasket. Got that done just under the line didn't I?

A couple of days ago I got a comment from Anna who turns out to live in the city next to me. Anna and her husband are quite the photographers and I spent quite a long time going through their photo blog. Tochigi Daily Photo. Do go take a look! I can't believe that most of her pictures are taken right around where I normally drive by on my ways elsewhere! Makes me look at my own city with completely different eyes. Hey, I live in a very interesting place! If you want to see real Japan (not my cats and quilts) scroll down and look around at the archives. The Candle Illumination and the festival pictures are so beautiful!

It's still hot around here!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Kitty show

More kitty pictures.

While Vel sits outside and enjoys the garden bench, the rest of our kitties are finding the cat house to be a great place to hang out. Mi especially is spending a lot of time out there and the other kitties want to know what's so interesting.

"You're right! That IS interesting. Let me look! Let me look!"

Including me. I went out to see what has all the kitties so enthralled. A tree right off the cat house. Hmmm. And looking more closely... A pigeon! Two pigeons! They don't really look like they have made a nest in there but they've taken up residence in the branches for the past week. They do not seem to be the least disturbed that 4 or 5 cats are watching them at close range and Vel is looking up at them from the bench. I guess they know that none of these cats can get them.

One pigeon stays silently in the branches but the other flits back and forth and teases the cats by alighting on the cat house slats... The cats can't get him there either. What with the cats all meowing which sends Choco to barking, you'd think there is enough noise to send the pigeons away. They have the whole forest behind us to choose from! I feel a little flattered that they chose our tree!

And the cats are very happy.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Changing of the cats

When I got back to Japan, Tetsu had about had it with the cats. Oh the messes they made to show their disapproval of the summer arrangements. No mom, and the house was hot. Tetsu did a good job of playing "changing of the cats" (similar to "changing of the guards") but a lot of frustrations got vented during the month..

In review. Velvet lives upstairs in the sewing room since Toi bullies and attacks. If Vel doesn't feel safe he reacts by urinating and defecating on the spot. Poor kitty. Patora has also joined Toi's bullying gang and joins in the taunting so Vel has two adversaries. Toi and Patora have also started attacking Cleo so Cleo joined Vel in the sewing room this summer. (Those two get along.)
(And yes, all animals in my house have been neutered and spayed... I still have aggressive behavior.)

Toi and Patora are also the biggest eaters so if they try to share a meal with any of the other cats (who are slower) then the other cats get cheated out of their food. Toi weights about 13 lbs now... Toi and Patora get fed in the laundry room which Toi doesn't mind but Patora hates. Patora regularly opens up laundry powder boxes and spreads laundry powder around the floor. One of the two cats have learned how to open the dryer (where I store cat food) and the cat food is no longer safe in there... Toi and Patora ate a large portion of the VERY EXPENSIVE cat food that Vel and Cleo have to eat.

Mi and Chip can go in and out as they please. They get along with everybody. Oh and because all these cats have learned how to open doors (sliding and lever door handles) we have rigged a nail and cord arrangement on the laundry room and sewing room. When one or two cats go into this room then one or two cats come out of that one. Yep, "changing of the cats" in the Watanabe home.

Back to the messes. Remember at the beginning of July when Tetsu re-carpeted my sewing room? Tetsu came home one day to find that Vel and Cleo had eaten the carpet! Those are heavy rubberized carpet tiles but that didn't sway two frustrated felines. The carpet in front of the door is now in shreds...

Right now Vel in enjoying sitting in the yard on a leash. NOBODY can bother him there. And many of the other cats are very happy in Tetsu's cool (as in temperature) cat house. I bought up a supply of Feliway (cat pheromones) and I'm hoping that will kick in and calm a few cat nerves. 6 indoor cats are too many. (But I love them all.)

Friday, August 20, 2010

Landscape quilt

I spent some time in my sewing room yesterday. Straightened up a bit, dusted the sewing machine and cleaned out its inner workings. Then I sat down and sewed!!!!

A few years ago I came into possession of Karen Eckmeier's book Happy Villages. I don't know HOW many times I've pulled out that book and made villages with her designs and I've used it a lot with children and adults. I've been wanting to try Ms. Eckmeier's landscape quilts and I ordered this from Amazon while I was in the States.

Yesterday I pulled out some leftover fabric (I'm not cutting into my batiks yet. Can't experiment with those!) and tried the first project in the book. I really followed page by page so none of this is very original.

Chose fabrics and cut into manageable sizes.

Using a roller cutter cut gentle curves. Iron one side down.

Decide on a layout and pin.

Top stitch in place.

The picture.

Add borders. Add freehand quilting.

Bind. My first landscape quilt. I'm ready to start on the second project!