Wednesday, November 30, 2011


I'm still knitting. Tetsu's vest is almost finished.

On Tuesday, Mrs. Ide (the knitting wizard!) brought over her iron to show me. Mrs. Ide has studied knitting (at a school!). She knows all these tricks and tips for making something extra nice. The one tip she says over and over again is

"Blocking the knitted piece is the most important part of knitting."

Now I don't understand that. I spend weeks knitting parts, put them all together, sew in the dangling yarn ends and give the whole thing a few tugs before wearing. A couple years later I may send it to the dry cleaners. But Mrs. Ide says that's all wrong. It is important to steam iron each piece before connecting them, it is important to steam seams open, it is important to steam set the ribbing. Once steam set, you never have to do it again... Ever!

Okay... I tried steaming Tetsu's vest... with my cute little pink plastic iron. It seems to spit steam AFTER I set it back in its cradle. And I don't see much difference even after I steam iron my knitted pieces (sorry Mrs. Ide). Is my iron bad or is it me?

Mrs. Ide's iron is one that she bought 35 years ago for a couple hundred dollars (for an iron 35 years ago that's pretty expensive!) She bought it for the specific purpose of using it on her knitted pieces. (She has another iron for patchwork and regular clothes ironing. It has no temperature adjustment, it has no buttons. It is just very heavy and steams (but you are NEVER are supposed to touch the iron to knitted pieces! Just the steam.) I thought the brand name was interesting. Bamboo Co. LTD.

Mrs. Ide demonstrated her steaming technique on another friend's Work In Progress and I must say that her iron does a better job of steaming than mine.

Anyway, I will finish Tetsu's vest this week AND STEAM IT!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Sky high

Somewhere on the other side of the mountains is an electric power plant and high tension wires extend from it going across the fields and over the farms and forests.

Yesterday when I was driving home from somewhere I looked up and saw little dots within the wires.

Crows? No... Too far up and too far away to be able to see crows.

Those... are... people up there! I stopped the car and took some pictures. I wonder if they noticed me down on the ground appreciating their hard work. How would you like to have a job like that? I'm glad other people can do it!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Stuff, stuff, stuff

A couple of weeks ago I decided I wanted to be a "minimalist". I got that term from the book, Simplify, that I downloaded on my Kindle. Years and years ago (before blogging) I was a big follower of Flylady and my house looked pretty good. I had routines and decluttering zones and shopping lists. I religiously threw away 11 pieces of junk daily (it could even be a bread package tab... just so I'd hit 11.)

But once I started blogging I got away from visiting the Flylady website daily and my house has crumbled... or maybe better said, jumbled. Stuff, stuff, stuff.

One major problem is that I don't know where the dump is in our town. Taking things to the dump has always been Tetsu's job and HE only gets there once every 4 or 5 years.

Another problem is that there are no thrift shops in Japan. There are recycle shops where the shop offers a piddling for the few things you bring in but more often than not the shop tells you that you don't have anything that anyone would want (that's why I'm bringing it to the recycle shop!) and send you home with your box. It hardly seems worth the trouble.

And thirdly, garbage is set out in a community trash area... not in front of the house, so if you put your trash out on the wrong day then you get an angry block head (that's Block-head as in neighborhood block, not blockhead...) confronting you. What with paper going out on one day, burnables going out on another, cans and glass on another day and plastics on still another day, I am confused about when to throw away the old picture frame (wooden) that has metal tabs on the back (dangerous) and glass on the front (glass). And I am at my wits end about what to do with an old TV and computer printer and old carpets! So there they sit littering my bedroom.

I've asked Tetsu to go to the dump. He said it costs money to take things to the dump. WELL??? Does he want to start his own dump in our bedroom (and storage room and back kitchen cupboard?)

The other day Tetsu invited me to come to his convalescent home's bazaar. Bazaars are great places for people to get rid of their UNUSED stuff. It has to be unused though... Pretty dishes that were given as a wedding present (wedding presents are given to the guests at weddings), towels that your mother-in-law bought but you don't like... Those sort of things. I went to the bazaar and bought a bag of rice and a sturdy serving tray. Also a pair of bead earrings that a group made. I ate some fried noodles and fried chicken and had good time.

BUT!!! That night Tetsu came home with a box!

"Left-over stuff from the bazaar. I just bought it all for a few thousand yen as a donation to the convalescent home."

Bear chopstick holders. A bowl without a lid. Pretty plastic dishes. A wooden trivet. Candles holders, hand towels, a cow cup, a single portion size pot. A set of white dessert dishes.

So much for being a minimalist. I frowned at all of the stuff poking out of the box.

"So, what are we going to do with all this?"

"The ladies in the office predicted that you wouldn't be happy about all this stuff. They said, "Oh, your wife is going to be angry at you!" I'll put it in the back closet."

The office ladies know me better than Tetsu does. I guess the box will stay in the back closet until another bazaar someday.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Family news

Yesterday I had my dose of family time.

First I called my mother to wish her a happy Thanksgiving. In years past my mother would call once week and we would talk for an hour on the phone (and the phone rates were high in those days!!) But these days she no longer calls and I know the conversations I'll have with her will go around in a circle without much news. On my side of the world, no children to talk about so I don't have much to tell her either. I know if I bring up the topic of cats that she will be horrified that I have so many (AGAIN! Maybe two or three times during the phone call) and I know that she will ask a number of times when I am coming again and then will be disappointed when I tell her I won't visit until summer. She misses me. We had a nice 10 minute chat and signed off with her telling me that she would go directly and tell my brother and Marcy that I had called.

A few minutes later I decided to go ahead and call my brother and Marcy myself and wish them a happy Thanksgiving too. Grandma (my mother) was over there already enjoying a turkey sandwich ( she only lives on the other side of the walkway) but Marcy said she hadn't mentioned talking to me. Well, that was what she went over there for! Such is the forgetfulness of old age, but my mother still can walk across the walkway and still enjoy a turkey sandwich!

A bit longer of a chat with Marcy asking her to do a couple of favors for me, commiserating with her about the lack of news from either of my children. Though Takumi only lives an hour away, he doesn't come by much. I tried to beg off her sending Christmas presents to Japan this year ... it costs way too much and there is nothing we really need nor want. I too find it hard to buy presents for Kiana (16) and Colin (13). We talked about 20 minutes. Kiana is driving now... My brother works too hard... Normal family news.

After hanging up with Marcy I found Leiya on the computer. She was at a friend's house for Thanksgiving weekend but Marcy had just called and suggested she fly out to California for Christmas. That would be nice Christmas present for our whole family. Leiya with her grandma and uncle's family, and maybe Takumi would even turn up.

And after chatting with Leiya my doorbell rang and our good friend Toshi Suga was standing at the front door with home made pumpkin pie in hand wishing me a happy Thanksgiving! (The Suga family was featured in those Thanksgiving pictures from a couple of days ago.) After reading about my lonely Thanksgiving, they took pity on me and brought me pumpkin pie and sweet sake for my cold.

All in all I felt very loved and cared for yesterday. And that's what Thanksgiving is all about!

Friday, November 25, 2011


Mrs. Furui mailed me a pattern for next year's bazaar quilt. Though she only lives 30 minutes from me, I haven't been able to get over to her part of town and with the Bargello done I wanted some sewing at my fingertips. The last I'd heard our group was going to go for house patterns. And then someone suggested trees. And from what was in the envelope I guess trees won! Not really. THIS month everyone will be making trees. NEXT month we'll be making houses. We've got a lot of time. Who knows how our village will grow!

So these are my trees for this month.

And I'm back with no sewing at my fingertips...

UNTRUE!!! Tanya, finish knitting the vest! Get some hand quilting done! Put together the Star quilt and the Alabama Beauty! You've got LOTS to do!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

My Thanksgiving family

Happy Thanksgiving to all my American blogging friends and family! I heard that Leiya is spending the day with a college friend's family and I have no idea about how Takumi spends Thanksgiving. I don't think he knows how to roast a turkey.

My family has always been a small one. My father, mother, brother and myself. My mother was an only child so no relatives on her side of the family. My father had a disagreement with his only sister so I never met that side of the family. No cousins, no aunts or uncles; grandparents living in the Midwest while we lived in California.

When I was about 5, our family became good friends with a Japanese-American family and most holidays and weekends were spent with them. The fathers played chess together. The mothers went shopping together. We children played ditch and read comic books together. The other family's grandfather and my grandfather (when he was visiting) would converse in Japanese and make us Thanksgiving dinner. Rolled eel sushi... Chicken livers and water chestnuts... Pineapple and soy sauce spare ribs... And turkey. It wasn't a typical Thanksgiving dinner but I thought we were eating what everyone ate!

Until Tetsu and I moved to Nikko, our family too didn't do much to celebrate Thanksgiving. (Well, Tetsu hardly knows what the celebration is!) For one, my oven is not large enough to roast a turkey. Turkey? Where is there a turkey?! Japanese have absolutely no idea what a turkey is... not in the wild nor in the supermarket. My poor children were missing the American tradition of Thanksgiving with family!

However, as history tends to repeat itself, our Japanese-American bi-cultural family became good friends with another Japanese-American bi-cultural family, the Yamadas. The fathers did judo together. The mothers ate chocolate together. The children played video games and read comic books together. And for many, many years we celebrated Thanksgiving at Marlene's house along with other friends with US affiliations. Marlene had the big American oven and she ordered a turkey from some specialist store. One friend, who often made business trips to the States would think ahead and bring back cans of black olives and cranberry sauce. Yum! And the rest of us would pot-luck in pumpkin pies, green bean casseroles and salads.

Marlene and Kohei live in Hong Kong these days... Sigh. No more Thanksgiving dinners around here anymore... More than missing the dinners though, I miss Marlene and all the people that gravitated to the Yamada's house.

Happy Thanksgiving Marlene! I'm thinking of you!

(Oh dear... I'm posting pictures of people (and children!) without asking... But since this is from 11 years ago, do you think they'll forgive me? Tetsu isn't as gray as he is these days. And Leiya in the yellow looks nothing like she does now. Can you even spot grumpy Takumi in the one picture? He's wearing purple.) My good friends and family!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

"Inside a Rainbow" finished!

I am still battling my cold (it has been a week! I'm fed up!) and don't go out much and don't get much done. Yesterday was a holiday in Japan which meant I could sew or knit as much as I liked.

And the result was......


I had some trouble with quilting the borders on this. Early this year I had done full feathers (meaning feathered on both sides of the vine) on the Alphabet Soup. I was very happy with the result and knew I wanted to do feathers in the border on this quilt too. But once I got started I couldn't find a rhythm and ended up getting lost... I also didn't leave enough room on the far side for a full feather... Okay... Just sew what you can... and I did. And I think it came out very well. For feathers I've decided that the more you add, the better it goes. A lot of the crookedness gets quilted out on the second sweep...

The "Inside a Rainbow" will be going to some church friends who run a foster home called Rainbow House.

"Tanya, we have that large wall in the entry and since we call ourselves Rainbow House, would you consider making a rainbow quilt for the space? If you ever have any free time or the inclination to do so, we sure would appreciate it."

I didn't know how to make a rainbow shaped quilt. My friends left the whole pattern open and have never mentioned the request again. That left me free to play with the batik fabric I have but I wasn't very successful in making a rainbow shape using the Bargello method. When I started quilting this (after a couple months pinned to my wall) I drew in arcs with a chalk pencil and quilted anyway my heart took me. I suppose I was still striving for a rainbow shape...

Actually with all the color movement, you can't really see the quilting details but maybe in the right light...? I'm considering keeping this quilt around the house until Christmas because I'd really like to show it to my patchwork friends at December's meeting. A bit of pride showing its head there...

Monday, November 21, 2011

Thursdays quilts c/o Mrs. Ochiai

Still no pictures from my camera.


Mrs. Ochiai sent me pictures from the Thursday patchwork day that I missed. (I haven't heard yet about what was decided for next year's bazaar quilt.)

I see that Mrs. Ochiai was busy last month and put together all the stars from the swap game. She chose stars and has been making lots of her own because she wants to make two bed covers, one for herself and one for her husband. She's got one bed cover to the flimsy stage! She will probably be hand quilting this (I assume that because she has a couple quilts already that need to be machine quilted but she lacks inspiration to get started.) Mrs. Ochiai is much farther along on this project than I am.

And here is a top that Mrs. Furui has been making for the hospital she volunteers at. Well, will you look at that! So THAT'S how she is using the two yellow stars she asked me to make for her! Obviously I didn't have much to do with this quilt since I didn't even know how the layout was going to be. Mrs. Furui has another group of ladies that she is guiding in making hospital quilts and she must have been working on the Lone Star in secret. I never saw those red colors at Mrs. Furui's house before!

I do hope that I can show something of my own this week.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Afghan stitch knitting

Let's see. I've not been out and about with this cold so my poor camera hasn't been out of my handbag for days.

How about a couple scenery pictures from BEFORE I caught my cold.

These were taken one morning when the fog had settled. I love the moon still hanging there over the mountain.

While I was housebound I tried working on Tetsu's vest. Sigh... I'm not sure this year's vest is going to be a success. For one this afghan stitch just takes too long. I'm probably never going to attempt such a big project again with it. I have lots of other things I need to get done this season and my plodding along with this is getting frustrating.

Another reason is that the stitch takes a lot of yarn (and Tetsu is a larger man than many Japanese men). Of course I figured that out late and had to go back and order more yarn. Even though the color is the same the lots must have been different because I can see a difference in shade... Rats. Well, Tetsu won't notice but other people probably will.

And lastly, while trying to make a pattern on graph paper (I do things the hard way) I STUPIDLY ERASED the first figures for the armholes. ... which means the armholes on the back and on the front are different. That's not a terrible mistake but it goes to show that my brain wasn't working well under the influence of cold medicine. What ninny would erase all the figures on a paper before realizing she needed those for the second half of her project? Me-Ninny.

Persevere Tanya!

Today I'm hoping I can go up and work on the Inside a Rainbow Quilt. I'd really like to get borders quilted this week.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


The weather turned cold in Japan this week. And because I like to keep up with the times, I caught the first cold of the season. Rats. And yesterday was a patchwork day! Mrs. Furui had a suggestion for next year's bazaar quilt and I was planning to be included in the decision making. Too bad. I ended up going back upstairs for an all day nap... So disappointing!

I hope I gain a bit more energy by this weekend.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Inside a Rainbow

I'm still quilting the Bargello. I think I've decided to name the quilt "Inside a Rainbow". I keep quilting in border designs and it looks like a rainbow getting larger and larger. I need to think about stopping pretty soon. Too much of a good thing is... too much.

Our church had Blessing the Children Day on Sunday. This is similar to the Japanese custom of Seven-Five-Three Day where children are taken at those ages to the shrine to be blessed. Right now in our church we have about 6 families with children and they were called up to the front of the church to be prayed for. Small church, huh?

Cat news. I do not know what is happening with the litter of kittens down the street. But a couple of days ago a DIFFERENT neighbor was walking her dog and carrying a kitten. This is the same neighbor that considered taking Mi when we first found her. I was so disappointed when they decided not to.

"God, why do You give me these animals? Why won't You move our neighbors' hearts to take this kitty?"

Of course since then Tetsu and I have delighted in Mi and been thankful that God wanted this kitty to be ours. When I saw the neighbor carrying the kitten I stopped and admired it a bit.

"We found it. It is blind! We took it to the vet but there's nothing to be done for it. Well, then we'll just have to take good care of it. It has become part of our family."

Talk about being confirmed that God uses all things to work for the best! If our neighbor had taken Mi a couple of years ago they might not have so readily been willing to take in a handicapped cat. I'm so happy that both Mi and this new kitten have good homes!

And my son wrote this week telling me that he too has taken in a cat. I guess it followed him home from somewhere and though he and his girlfriend put up posters and went door to door looking for the cat's owners, the cat has moved in. I forgot to ask what he's named it.

Tetsu's comment was,

"Like mother, like son."

Takumi has always loved cats so I'm not really surprised.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Tokyo Disneyland

Yesterday I attended a lecture for convalescent home workers. Obviously it was Tetsu who steered me to the lecture. He wanted me to hear the speaker who is a representative of Tokyo Disneyland. It was a fascinating lecture! Although Disneyland and convalescent homes don't seem to have much in common, the speaker's point was that as a "service", customer satisfaction and employee satisfaction need to be equal for an organization or business to run well.

Anyway, I gleamed tidbits from the lecture. The training of employees (called cast members in Disney language) in greeting people, smiling and making eye contact. All points that I have found lacking in regular Japanese society but that I strive for myself. The importance of hospitality... making guests (of the Disney park) feel welcome, happy and safe, this so often gets lost in the regular running of a business or in daily life.

Did you know that Tokyo Disneyland "cast members" were lauded for their calm crowd control during the earthquake of March 11 and immediately afterward? That story has become somewhat of a mini-legend already in Japan. 30,000 "guests" were at the park that day. 3,000 "cast members" were working. However, there was very little panicking even as the Haunted House swayed and the Monorail shimmied much like a snake above the parking lot. SMILINGLY the "cast" directed the crowds to sit along the streets while areas were cordoned off. (picture off the Internet)

In one shop a child was crying from fear and one of the "cast" offered the child a large Micky Mouse doll and told her to hold it over her head as protection from things falling.

"Micky Mouse will protect you."

The other "cast members" began the same action and throughout Disneyland, soft animals and dolls were passed out to the children until the shelves all over Disneyland were bare. Large Disney bags and garbage bags were made into makeshift ponchos to keep in body heat and the "guests" spent the night in the park instead of trying to make their way along roadblocked highways. When the kitchens were reopened, food was provided for the guests.

From a business standpoint, the earthquake was devastating to Tokyo Disneyland. The park closed down for two months because the parking area buckled and liquefied during the earthquake. I first became aware that Disneyland was back and running when the TV was announcing in June that Tokyo Disneyland had reopened and was welcoming in Easter. Easter? In June?

What must have happened was that Disneyland had planned to introduce Easter into Japan. (15 years ago they had successfully introduced Halloween to Japan) but the earthquake foiled those plans in March. Disneyland decided to go ahead with the Easter parade and decorations when it later reopened. (I took this picture off the TV in mid June.)

Anyway... though I haven't been to Disneyland in years, it was nice to hear yesterday of Disneyland's policies and successes. According to yesterday's speaker, Disneyland's success isn't due to huge business know-how. It is because of people and how they interact, how they respond to needs, and how they care about others. A good thing to note in any type of organization.

In Walt Disney's words.

"It Takes People"

Sort of makes me want to visit Disneyland...

Friday, November 11, 2011

Quilting... and ripping...

I'm upstairs quilting~~~ Do I know what I'm doing? Nope. But I quilt a little, use the seam ripper to take out whole areas, start over again and just keep on going. If you don't hear from me I'm wrestling with the Bargello! (A good seam ripper is worth its weight in gold.)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A walk

Yesterday Choco and I got in a long walk (after a morning of Bargello basting). I thought I'd show the scenery around here in 5 minute increments.

Okay, this is the start. 11:45 at my front door with Choco raring to go!11:50. We are at a neighbor's vegetable field. Icicle radishes, Sunny lettuce, Chinese greens (and chrysanthemums in the background.)

11:55. We have walked north and are at a hay field with a dairy farm in the distance.

12:00. I made Choco pose in front of the cows. Not dairy cows I see. "Let's get out of here! I don't like cows!~" (That was Choco. I happen to like cows.)

12:05. On a back road. For the next 15 minutes there wasn't much but rice fields and forests... Never saw a car or any people.

12:20. Back into an area with houses. These are Ukoko. Choco takes great interest in these fluffy chicks.

12:25. Oh dear. I'm not too happy with these things gracing our countryside but I guess if I use the cell phone then I can't complain.

12:30. This beautiful Ginko tree stands in front of the entrance to our neighborhood. It is at its peak for fall colors.

12:30. Whoops. I cheated and put in this picture of a "bakery". This is in the other direction from the Ginko tree. The girl that runs this bakery had her boyfriend build her this shed two months ago and they decorated it up as best they could. The girl spends most of her days in the shed baking (two large ovens) and she sells her bread from that small little glass shelf out in front.

12:35. Back at my front door. I bought a handmade berry wreath (can you see them hanging under the bakery window?) at the bakery, as well as an onion bun for my lunch.

Thank you for joining Choco and me on our walk. How about showing me your neighborhood too!