Tuesday, November 30, 2010

November BOM

Yesterday I went on an all day outing with some friends so I haven't been on the computer again. And today is Wednesday so I'm due to head off in a few minutes. Lots of pictures tomorrow.

I finished my November Tisket a Tasket block and it is up on the wall. Only one more to go!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Mrs. Furui's projects

I finished two blocks for Mrs. Furui's box in our block exchange game. She wants trees, actually of all colors but I stuck to green. The light one isn't so striking but it has sparkles in it that reminds me of snow. I'll see if I can get one more block made before I'm due to pass this on.

Mrs. Furui has been a quilter almost as long as I have and it goes without saying that we love to give away our quilts... Maybe Mrs. Furui more than me! Together we started the kindergarten raffle quilt project nearly 20 years ago and Mrs. Furui has made prayer quilts for her friends and family and also Wicked Easy quilts to give away.

For a long time the two of us have been interested in making quilts for some organization... One that speaks to our heart. Some of our overseas quilting friends belong to guilds that pour out an amazing number of donation quilts but basically it is just Mrs. Furui and me that seem to have the time and desire to donate our work.

A couple months ago Mrs. Furui signed up to volunteer at a university hospital in the next city over and she was asked WHAT sort of things she might be willing to do.

"I make quilts."

Ah... There is a need... but a sad one. Each year babies who return to Heaven, angels for a short time on earth, are carried home by their parents in bath towels... Maybe the grieving parents would be comforted to hold their angel in a gift of love and sympathy. Would Mrs. Furui take on that project? Nearly 20 such quilts are needed each year in the one hospital...

So, Mrs. Furui set to work and made up a couple small quilts and she approached me about helping her throughout the year. May I say that I don't believe in coincidences? The day Mrs. Furui told me about the hospital's angels' quilts was the day my own first daughter was born... and less than two months later I sadly took her home wrapped in a bath towel. At a time like that it doesn't really matter... bath towel... quilt... but still I felt that God was telling me that this was another project I should participate in. I certainly could understand the pain and heartache.

According to Mrs. Furui's instructions I've made up an "Angel's quilt." That's what I'm going to call these. So tiny! Only 20 inches square. Hand quilted on pastel pink. There are reasons for the color choice, light pink or light yellow... It is too sad to even explain why. How sad that there is even a need for Angel quilts. How blessed to be able to share in the sorrow. I'll be making more of the same over the year.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Church cleaning

Yesterday was Tetsu and my turn to clean the church. Since we live closest it is a quicky chore that we do once a month. All the pews get moved either to the front and then to the back of the room and the place is vacuumed and then dry mopped. Vacuum upstairs in the small Sunday School room, clean the two bathrooms, sometimes wipe down the pews too and then move them back into place. The whole process takes about 30 minutes.

Twice a year though the church floors are waxed and this always turns out to be an all day process. Everything gets taken outside, the pews (which were constructed INSIDE the building) can't be taken out and so they are pushed forward while the floors behind them are waxed TWICE... and then all the waiting for the wax to dry in-between. Some years we have 10 people waiting around while the wax is drying so yesterday Tetsu and I waxed the back of the room and today after church the front part will be waxed.

Japanese churches don't have the budget to hire janitors or organists etc. The members take turns or use their talents where needed and flowers are picked from the garden or a potted plant is brought over from the pastor's house. Some churches will have members that have studied ikebana, flower arranging, but none of us are blessed with that talent.

In the entryway of our church is a New Testament quilt that my friend Kaoru-san (the solitary Sunday School teacher) made. A few years ago Kaoru-san learned patchwork from me for awhile and she put a lot of effort went into hand sewing this New Testament sampler quilt. When Kaoru-san was finally done she immediately gave it to the church which I have always thought an enormous act of love. Can you figure out what the different blocks are?

Bethlehem star. The Holy Spirit descending as a dove. The star and the cross (Jesus' life). The grape basket (fruit of the Spirit). The palm branches (entry into Jerusalem). The crown of thorns. The cross and the crown of glory. Worlds without end (Eternal life). The butterfly (Resurrection).

Kaoru-san chose her favorite Bible verse to embroider in the center.

"Rejoice always, pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks.
Thessalonians 5:16-18

The original pattern was developed by Sandra Shigeno, a missionary in Japan and I have made this quilt numerous times and taught it often... I wonder how many New Testament quilts are out there in the world thanks to Sandra. It is actually only a part of a Bible sampler quilt and I have never made the complete quilt though I have the patterns squirreled away somewhere.

"Rejoice always!" even when waxing!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Fabric shopping

Yesterday afternoon I went off with my friend's Mrs. Nakazawa and Rumi-san. We have been planning a trip to a city a couple of hours away to check out a fabric shop. With that said, I'm afraid I didn't take any pictures of the shop but I did have a wonderful day.

First the three of us had lunch at a winery in the hills. Since none of us are wine drinkers we just enjoyed the brisk air (we sat out on a deck with blankets over our legs!) and had a delicious salad lunch. Though I don't appreciate wine and the orchards were already bear of grapes, I still thought the winery's sign was wonderful.

After lunch we headed to the fabric store/gift shop and joined up with another friend. The shop was a much larger and much more elegant a shop than I can find in my city but the prices were dear! Still, such beautiful quality! The shop specialized in Liberty prints and oh my!!! Such a collection!!! Such prices!!! I was NOT going to buy fabric. I have enough fabric to last me a lifetime. But... after advising Mrs. Nakazawa and Rumi-san about purchases (they are planning to make Irish Chains) I couldn't resist. First I bought some relatively inexpensive fabric for backing... Maybe for a special friend's quilt that is still on the drawing board. And I splurged and bought a few inches of choice Liberty fabrics that I have absolutely no use for, nothing that will match it in my stash and nothing that I could make from this exquisite fabric would feel comfortable under my needle. So it will sit in a drawer. I'm so annoyed with my lack of will power!

After fabric shopping we stopped in at a coffee shop and indulged in cakes and coffee. Look at this cup! We were all served coffee in museum piece china! One friend who had been to the coffee shop before whispered that she'd asked the price of the cup and had been told one cup was about $1200! Gulp. Sip carefully! (By the way it was delicious. Does the price of the porcelain make the coffee taste better or do they just make better coffee than I do? Probably both.)

Last night I had nightmares about Mrs. Nakazawa and Rumi-san's Irish Chain quilts. I dreamed that they didn't like their choices of fabric after all... I dreamed that they absolutely couldn't use a sewing machine and that I had to make the quilts for them. I dreamed that I'd told them the wrong measurements and that all the expensive fabric was wasted! For such a fun day, I must be stressed about my upcoming role as quilting teacher again...

Thursday, November 25, 2010

vending machine drinks

I've written about vending machines before this year but I thought I'd show you one again...

This vending machine sits outside of the elementary school and I stand next to it when I am on crosswalk duty. Absolutely every morning that I am there a construction worker stops and buys the exact same can of coffee. I've chatted with him a bit and he says it is his wake up drink. I don't know if he's been awake all night and is trying to stay awake on his drive home or if he is just waking up to go to his job (the latter seems more probable).

Canned coffee is the most popular vending machine drink in Japan. Someone researched this and found out that men are more likely to buy canned coffee from the vending machine than anything else. (And I guess there are more long distance men drivers.) The varieties and brands are endless! Black coffee, cafe o'lait, flavored coffee, sugarless but with milk, milkless but with sugar, etc. etc.

This past month the vending machine next to the school switched to winter mode. If you look carefully you can see the top row of canned drinks now dispense hot drinks! (The top row's buttons are red...) I think this is a very nice invention (even though I don't like vending machines). In the warmer seasons the same vending machine dispenses only cold drinks... in the winter it can do both cold and hot!

Other hot drinks up there are hot Japanese tea, hot milk tea (British?), cocoa, corn potage, and six varieties of coffee. In the cold sections there are some of the same plus soft drinks... And the plastic bottled drinks (called PET bottles) also change depending on the season. The mouths of the winter bottles are a bit wider I suppose so that one can drink without burning your lips...

The construction worker I meet every morning always chooses GEORGIA original brand coffee but I notice he is drinking the hot variety this season...

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Welcome Back Feathered Star!

Amazing! I am hand quilting again!

On my list of handwork to do the Feather Star quilt has been there for MONTHS. Well, I wasn't going to hold a quilt on my lap during the summer months so it understood the need to sleep in the closet for awhile.

When autumn came along I brought it out of the closet and placed it on a chair in the hallway. My Feathered Star was very patient with me and anxiously waited for me to pick it up and work on it again. Hadn't I let it out of the closet? Wasn't it due for some together time?

Unfortunately knitting needles and yarn moved into the prime space next to my chair and the poor Feathered Star lived a couple months on the chair in the hallway. Blocks for my patchwork group's game moved into line next to the chair. So did the Tisket a Tasket BOM. I even did some quick hand quilting for a project of Mrs. Furui's. That was the ultimate insult to my Feathered Star!

"Applique? Piecing? Knitting? Well... there must be times when they have to come first. But hand quilting? How DARE Tanya start more hand quilting while ignoring me in the hallway!"

I could almost hear the whimpering from my beloved Feathered Star.

I felt remiss. Instead of promises I brought my Feathered Star downstairs last night and placed it next to my chair (on top of knitting and blocks and applique). And what do you know! If it is THERE it gets my attention and I even quilted on it for about an hour. My quilt was so happy!

I'm committed to satisfying my Feathered Star Quilt's longing for completion. It is staying by my chair and maybe by working on it bit by bit, it will someday find a place in light and glory! (On my wall? On my futon?)

Welcome back Feathered Star!

Monday, November 22, 2010


Some of you have asked about and followed the struggles of my friend Yumetaro-san. Last night his sister let me know that he had passed away earlier this month.

Over the past couple months I've visited Yumetaro-san 3 or 4 times at the hospice floor of the oncology hospital. Up until the last time I visited he was able to walk out to the "living room" and we would chat together. Once we walked around the small garden on the rooftop always with him pushing his IV pole. He even was able to go on a few hours outing with his sister and that evening she brought over some tofu that Yumetaro-san had bought for Tetsu and me.

I visited Yumetaro-san on Nov. 6th and was sad to find him barely conscious. I thanked him for the tofu and spent some time holding his hand. He was mumbling and I felt bad that couldn't catch what he was trying to say but I do think he knew that I had come to see him one more time. His sister said that they didn't expect him to live much longer, so I said my goodbyes then; a squeeze of the hand, a few words of gratitude for his friendship, a kiss on his cheek.

Yumetaro-san and I had an odd friendship. I knew him only 4 or 5 years. He brought me little things of his making. Paintings he'd painted on rocks, covered baskets, a beautiful scarf. I actually know so little about him. His first name was not really Yumetaro (Yumetaro means "dreamer") and I barely remembered his unusual last name. When I visited him the first time at the hospice, I stood at the nurses' desk and racked my brain until I finally pulled up his last name so that I could tell them whom I wanted to visit. We laughed when he greeted me in the hospice living room.

"Yumetaro-san! I didn't know who to ask for! You're just Yumetaro-san to me!"

"Yeah, well when the nurse told me that Watanabe-san was here to visit, I didn't know who that could be. I've only ever called you Tanya. What a pair we are! Don't even know each other by name!"

My friend Yumetaro-san is gone. I think I'll wear the scarf he gave me today.

Sunday, November 21, 2010


This is the season for RAMEN!

You may have heard of Instant Ramen. I have nothing against instant noodles but let me tell you, the difference is like hamburger and steak. They are NOTHING alike! And I'm sorry to say, I have never had a good bowl of shop made ramen noodles while I've been in the States. On practically every trip home after Tetsu picks me up after being a month in the States, I crave for ramen!

When it starts to get cold, steaming, bowls of hot noodles beckons from the noodle shops. And there are soooo many! I have heard of people traveling around Japan to sample the different types of ramen found here and there and there is quite a connoisseur cult. You can get miso ramen, or soy sauce ramen or salt ramen or pork broth ramen... And within each of those categories, each shop has it's own specialty or something that distinguishes its noodles from any other shop. One could easily just eat ramen daily for a year in my city and never have to go to the same shop twice.

(Soba noodles shops and udon noodle shops also abound in Japan and those are even more traditional and have their own cult of followers... Ramen is originally from China so I'm sure Chinese would NOT consider Japanese ramen authentic either....)

Tetsu LOVES ramen and we eat green onion ramen or cold ramen, or Chashu ramen (roasted pork).

This was our ramen meal the other day. Chicken broth ramen with lots of chashu and flavored bamboo shoots. The little pink-white circles are slice fish cakes. Yum! This shop's ramen has a nostalgic flavor and just walking into the shops takes us back 30 or more years... Pepper in hole punched bottle lids... numerous calendars on the walls...

And look at this! A working dial type telephone! You can't find those anymore in Japan though when I came to Japan every house kept one in their entryway. And yes, they all had these pretty little crocheted lace telephone covers!

We warmed up nicely with our hot ramen.

Saturday, November 20, 2010


You know, I was really surprised when a couple of my blog friends commented on my post about the Lemon Stars and said they knew it as LeMoyne Star. What? I've heard that name before but I thought it was a different block entirely. Lemon....LeMoyne...? Could it be that all these years, just conversing in Japanese with my patchwork friends, that I've had a completely "wrong" spelling in my mind? Yes... It is possible...

I went to the Internet and checked LeMoyne. Yep, that's my block! So I HAVE been wrong all these years. I wonder what spelling my Japanese friends "imagine" when they hear the name...

But then I went to one of the first patchwork books that I ever bought in Japan to learn basic patchwork... And there it was! Lemon Star! Oh, I'm so glad that someone else calls it that and not just me. So I'm not completely un-knowledgeable of patchwork basics. Lemon Star is the name in at least one Japanese book, and I did begin my patchwork life with this book.

On a completely different topic.

Tonya of Lazy Gal Quilting sent me a picture of a quilting booth that she was at in the Houston International Quilt Festival. My quilt was hanging in the booth!

I sort of, sort of not, knew that. Let's say sort of not. I made this Wonky Word quilt using Tonya's directions and gave it to Leiya a couple of years ago. I have been in blog contact with Tonya and showed her my quilt with the Japanese words in it. Tonya asked if she could borrow the quilt as an example that Japanese can be made with her wonky word system and Leiya forwarded the quilt to somewhere.

Not long ago Tonya asked if she could keep the quilt a bit longer so that it could be "displayed" but it didn't really register what the reason was nor where... Well, it was at a booth selling books (one of which is Tonya's which will be published in December by the way!) at the Houston quilt festival!

I have never made quilts to be shown to the public. There are so many warps and wrinkles and imperfections that even though I don't mind, I know my quilts are very homey but not of great quality. To have my quilt even BREATHE the air in a quilt show is EXCITING, EXCITING, EXCITING!!! Thank you Tonya for introducing my wonderful (to me and Leiya) Wonky quilt!

Everybody be sure to stay tuned to Tonya's blog because she will be letting us know when her book comes out!!!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Sofa life

You're going to think that all my husband does is sleep on the sofa but he works hard and when he IS home he crashes on the sofa and is soon snoring. Our animal family love it!

Here is Mi perched on Tetsu's chest. I have COUNTLESS pictures like this because this is Mi's absolute favorite place in the world. The closer to Tetsu's face the better!

And sometimes Patora joins Mi and they make for a warm, fluffy, is somewhat heavy blanket. You can see Patora on Tetsu's lap, but if you look closely you can see Mi is there on Tetsu's stomach.

Chip is not a great fan of Tetsu but if one needs warmth I guess a big knee is as good a place as any to perch. Newspaper, a bowl of granola and a cat to balance.

Velvet is a GREAT fan of Tetsu's but is too polite to climb on a lap unless invited.

"Pretty please? I need some love right now."

Choco occasionally gets into the act too. Choco is NOT allowed up on the sofa. But if she quietly crawls up there (so different from her usual hyper personality) and sits very quietly, she is hoping that the humans in the family will feel so relieved from all the scolding they normally do that they will be forgiving. Which we are.

That's a very dirty dog up there on my white sofa cover but Choco's expressive eyes look so worried about being sent down or worse into her kennel that I can allow some infractions of the house rules...

That only leaves Cleo and Toi. Cleo can be friendly too but he doesn't stay long in one place. Toi will have absolutely nothing to do with Tetsu... and that cat once cuddled like Mi did!

I guess Tetsu has enough company up on the sofa as it is!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Confectionery shop

I linked my post to a friend's blog and she and her husband are having a SHOW ME JAPAN weekend. I'm participating but I forgot to put their widget (or whatever this is called) on my post yesterday so I'm adding it late. Sorry A and Y!

I decided to show you pictures of where I work every weekday morning from 7:30 to 8:00. At the crosswalk! This is where I stand in front of a Japanese sweet shop which is in front of the elementary school.

The Japanese sweet shop has been in this same place for 80 years! The owner's grandfather started it when the roads were still gravel but since the road was paved there is a lot of traffic and that means more business for the shop. Still... It is run by a grandma and grandpa and their son... They sell Japanese bean paste sweets.

Every morning when I come to the corner the grandpa has rolled up his shop's metal shutters and dressed in his white apron and hat he busily washes the windows. Every morning! And when the weather is nice his wife carries their potted flowers and plants out under the awnings (and brings them back inside at night).

A couple of times a week the grandpa will set an outdoor stove going by the roadside and simmer up a pot to sweet beans. Oh! The air is filled with the aroma of wood burning and sugar bubbling! Yum! And in the kitchen the grandma is cooking up pots of sticky rice and rice gruel to be used in the Japanese confectioneries.

Not a large display case, but manju (sweet dumplings) and tea cakes (the colorful ones also made of sweet beans) and the standard dorayaki which are sweets with bean paste sandwiched between some mini pancakes, satisfy the community's sweet tooth. A few western looking cakes can be found in the display case on some afternoons because the owner's younger son owns a french pastry shop.

Sometimes when I go past the shop on my way to open the school gate, I find the wife outside drying her beans on bamboo mats and in metal baskets. She says they grow some of their own beans but actually they like to buy very delicious beans from Hokkaido in Northern Japan.

It is true that many foreigners do not like the texture of sweet bean paste and some are disappointed when what they think is going to be chocolate turns out to be bean paste. But with a hot cup of bitter green tea, sweet bean cakes are wonderful!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Lemon Stars

Wednesday and I'm off and running. Between knitting I did get 7 Lemon Stars made for my patchwork group's block exchange game. Mrs. Takagishi chose Lemon Stars and sometime during this game each of us have to make her 7. I wanted to get all of mine done as soon as possible leaving me freed up to do other things (or make her more if I get inspired) so I am DONE.

Unfortunately or maybe I should say "happily" Tetsu is taking tomorrow off which means I'll miss our monthly patchwork meeting.

"Husbands come before patchwork".

I should stitch that and display it in my house... Anyway, we are going off tomorrow someplace, somewhere, getting lost as usual, enjoying the autumn scenery so I need to take these Lemon Stars to Mrs. Furui today for her to pass on.

Do I dare make it to the swimming pool tonight?

Monday, November 15, 2010


Let's see. I'm perking again. NOT going to the swimming pool! During my confined evenings I've been knitting. I'd better watch out. I might decide never to go back to that swimming pool again. Winter evenings are definitely better spent knitting rather than swimming. (But swimming is supposed to be keeping me healthy. It's not doing a good job, cough, cough, sniffle. I can nibble while I knit so this is not good either...)

I changed directions after I made the Celtic design for Tetsu's sweater. Just too confusing and not very visible for all the work. I'll have to keep it in mind when I'm using less furry yarn. My friend Mrs. Ide offered to make up a pattern for me and after measuring one of Tetsu's favorite vests she went home and drew something up on graph paper. Supposedly this is Tetsu's basic size and I can make anything I want for him using this graph paper. Supposedly.

And then Mrs. Ide brought over her nifty knitting rulers and demonstrated how you use them to increase or decrease the right number of stitches. I've been knitting frantically (from base to armpit) so that I can show Mrs. Ide how I used her rulers. I hope I did it right...

I remember when I was young and newly married, hiding away in the freezing storage room knitting away at Tetsu's Christmas present so that it would be a surprise for him. I don't why he wasn't suspicious about his wife spending her evenings in the storage room. I thought it would be romantic to hand him a surprise hand made present on Christmas.

Nowadays I sit in the warm living room directly in front of him flourishing my needles and yarn.

"This is for you. Act surprised when you get it for Christmas."

So much for romance.

Sunday, November 14, 2010


While we're talking about computers (I was in the last post) I'd like your opinion about using pictures on your blog.

Usually I carry my digital camera around with me and I take a lot of pictures. Quite a lot of them get used on my blog. Scenery, food, cats, quilts, "oddities" of Japanese life. But you may have noticed that I don't show too many pictures of people... Somewhere in my blogging manners list (that I made up myself) was:

"Don't use pictures of people unless you get their permission."

This goes for friends and students and even for people on the street. I can ask friends if they mind if I use their pictures, and they usually say go ahead, but it is hard to go up to a perfect stranger on the street and say

"I just took your picture and I'd like to use it on my blog."

I'm thinking of a very tan, bent over, little old man who squats on the corner next to the trash pick-up area. I'd love to show you him but for some reason I feel sneaky trying to take his picture and then feel it would be wrong to show his picture on my blog just because he is quaint.

The kindergarten where I work has asked me NOT to post pictures of children. The pre-school however says it is okay. Tetsu has asked me to fuzz out the faces of residents at his convalescent home when I've posted about them. Some pictures of large groups are in my own grey zone of being so small that it would be hard to recognize people.... but of course anyone wise in computer photography would be able to blow up a picture if they really wanted to...

Some blogs show absolutely fantastic pictures of daily life in their area with children bouncing balls and teenagers clicking away at their cell phones. However, I can't get pass taking people's pictures and blogging about them without permission though I LOVE seeing such pictures on other blogs. My own quirk?

And just trying to explain what a blog is makes it all the more complicated. I have taken pictures of the locals and explained that I wanted to show my friends in America. This is true but doesn't go into the details of Internet and international... Is this a white lie?

So that's about the pictures I take myself.

Sometimes when I'm blogging I don't have a particular picture and I go searching on Google. Usually Google has something interesting. But wait. Some of those pictures, when you go to the website (usually the illustrations) say that they are copyrighted . Does that mean that it is stealing if you use the picture on your blog?

Sometimes I'll find a picture that doesn't say anything about copyright and will use it on my blog. Usually I try to say at the end of my post that I've taken the picture from the Internet, but from where I have no idea... Is that stealing? I know some people who have gotten very upset to find their pictures on other people's blogs... How you find that out I don't know.

A few weeks ago a magazine contacted me about a silly little picture I'd taken of Japanese beetles. The magazine very kindly explained that they would like to use my picture on their website for environmental consciousness. They probably found it on Google. They could have "taken" it without me ever knowing. I thought it was nice of them to ask but unnecessary.

Someone once contacted me about what my opinion was over a picture of their baby (taken 10 years before) that had found it's way to a Japanese website and was being used REPEATEDLY in cartoons and not so great publicity ads. They wanted to know what the Japanese said and I had to report that it was not very good. I would be VERY upset to find out my picture had been used that way!

Adding illustrations and pictures makes a blog interesting. But where does MY picture leave off? More importantly to me is can another blog or web site's picture become MY picture if they haven't specifically said "don't use"? I'd really like to continue using Google's images...What are your manners for illustrating your blog?

The yellow copyright symbol was "taken" from the Internet.