Thursday, August 30, 2012

Works in Progress

I enjoyed a rather unproductive patchwork day at Mrs. Furui's house yesterday. None of us really thought to bring projects... we basically chatted about summer happenings. Three regulars couldn't attend but one new friend (recently retired) joined us.

Mrs. W's mother was a long time sewer and quilter but her eyes and hands have slowed down with age and the mother told Mrs. W to take everything and do with it as she wished. Mrs. W came laden yesterday with a huge bag of her mother's Works-In-Progress. Many blocks in all sizes, many ALREADY quilted blocks in all sizes. Stained glass blocks, Pineapple blocks, Cathedral Window blocks, Trapunto blocks, Mariner's Compass blocks. And of course in all different color schemes.

"What am I going to do with all this?"

What indeed. We separated already quilted from non-quilted, we grouped Stained Glass away from Mariner's Compass.

"Okay, at the very least you're going to have to bind some of those quilted blocks and you'll have a few quick wall hangings. Next month we'll teach you how to bind a quilt block. And here are these lovely Stained Glass blocks.. Make one more and this will be a beautiful quilt. That will be your other homework. You can worry about the rest later... Maybe an orphan block quilt?" (I had to explain what orphan blocks were.)

Knowing nothing about Mrs. W's mother, I'd say a lot of these blocks were practice runs before she made the real thing... Or maybe she just liked the challenge of trying something new and turned out block after block in many different styles and techniques.

It made me stop and think about the W-I-Ps that I have myself. I do have an orphan block box on my shelf but I don't think there are THAT many blocks in it. I can imagine that someday Leiya will be happier to inherit finished quilts and even fabric stash over a bunch of W-I-Ps. Let this be a lesson to all of us! Finish what we start or our families (and our families' friends) are going to spend a lot of time wondering how to "dispose" of things without negating our hard work.

Our friend Mrs. W has a few years of work cut out for her...


Mrs. Furui put together her game blocks this summer (we all made blocks for each other over the last year or two) and she is close to getting this to flimsy stage. She was auditioning border fabrics yesterday.

Patchwork trees always make me smile.


Just before I left for the States, Mrs. Ochiai, my camera and electronics mentor, brought me a bracelet to give to Leiya. Mrs. Ochiai also does beading and Chinese knotting and she'd made this beautiful, stylish bracelet. Leiya was overjoyed when I gave it to her, (Leiya, did you ever e-mail Mrs. Ochiai and thank her!?!) and you might have noticed it on Leiya's wrist in many of our summer pictures. Yesterday Mrs. Ochiai brought one for me too!!!

Now, I am not normally a bracelet person but I absolutely LOVE this one. It is not a sophisticated, fashion queen statement... more of a relaxed, post-hippie era, nonchalantly worn accessory. It is colorful as well as a bit sparkly and casual enough to wear with my everyday jeans. I may never take it off! (but I must admit it doesn't go well with my crosswalk guard uniform.) Isn't it lovely?! It is Mrs. Ochiai's own design... well she saw something similar on the Internet and figured out how to make it herself. I think she could go into business. Leiya and I are sure happy!

Thank you Ochiai-san!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Miscellaneous post

I didn't realize today is a Patchwork Day (I'm still on vacation mode!) so I've got to be out of here in a hurry.

I see I have a few miscellaneous pictures in my files. How about this one.

At a dollar shop I was looking at these cute pouches... Probably for carrying CDs or something. A Panda case... A Rabbit case. A Flog case. A FLOG case?

Maybe a typical Japanese-English pronunciation mistake but usually not so glaringly produced en masse.

And at the supermarket I caught a picture of a family taking their groceries home. 30 years ago this used to be very typical and it always reminded me of a circus act. Mom on the bicycle, a baby tied to her back, a child in a front child's seat, another child riding on the back bumper. In fact I regretted that there weren't many mothers that use bicycles that much anymore and that I'd never get a picture to show my blog friends... Then, lo and behold, I watched this family load up and pedal away. No baby on the mom's back but she managed to squeeze two children on her back bumper. I was very careful not to get faces in my picture... Um, is this being dishonest? I really wouldn't have had enough courage to ask them to pose for my real camera so I hurriedly took this on my cell phone... To photo or not to photo...

Help! We are being attacked by aliens! Nope... just by a giant praying mantis. I was somewhere and came across a giant metal sculpture at the edge of a parking area... No other artwork around and seeing this "creature" that was taller than me as I got out of the car gave me a start.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Firey stars

Not much to say about the car problem. Tetsu no longer seems upset. Though I had planned to take the car in, get an estimate etc, he "asked" me not to do ANYTHING related with the car and to let him handle it. I don't know what frustrates him more. My depending on him or my trying to solve problems on my own.

My teaching schedule has started again and today is my busy Wednesday. I'm out of here in 10 minutes. Before the vacation ended I did spend some time with needle, thread, and sewing machine.

The rainbow strips that turned into wedges have now turned into blocks. 24 of them (I need to make 24 more) And when set together they hopefully look like stars. Wow! Bright! I hope I can get the next 24 done this weekend.

I also finished another block for Borders and Promises. I thought this was number 8 but it may only be number 7. Pretty soon I'm going to start thinking about sewing these together...

Off I go to the kindergarten!

Monday, August 27, 2012


I'm in the dumps today because yesterday I knocked the bumper off my car and scratched up the back. I backed out of someplace and into an extremely low wall (couldn't see it in my mirror) and to tell the truth I had other things on my mind at the time.

I had someone in the car with me so I couldn't start wailing immediately, just glanced at the back, picked up the bumper, kicked a part back into place and went on my way chatting to the person in the passenger's seat. But all the while my heart was thudding and I felt sort of sick. It's amazing how a person can play a calm, no-worries role when the mind is twirling with what-if's, why-did-I, what-should I etc.

My passenger and I came back to the house and I decided NOT to call Tetsu and get him upset (at me) while I had company so I delayed until evening trying to be a pleasant hostess to my guest. When I finally did talk to Tetsu he controlled his frustration very well.

Last night Tetsu saw the damage and said he would contact the insurance company.

"I don't mind driving it this way. It is my fault. I'm disappointed that the car has a gash in it but it is what it is."

That was not the thing to say. According to Tetsu the system is not that simple. (Annual regulation overhauls can be delayed if damaged cars are not repaired properly... Possible damage to wheel alignment that my non-mechanic mind cannot fathom.) Tetsu's estimate of the damage based on how the convalescent home's vehicles have been repaired is..... GULP.

So. What's done is done. (That's probably not the right thing to say either.) I'm not posting any pictures because I don't know how much more Tetsu has left on his frustration levels...


Sunday, August 26, 2012


Today was my first day back at the crosswalk. It has been nice to have a summer vacation. Too bad that summer is still here but there is no more vacation! It was hot out there at the crosswalk even if it was only 7:30 in the morning!

I arrived at the elementary school to find the playground all torn up and marked off with traffic cones and ropes. The normal hard packed ground was soft and dusty making my black shoes light brown in a matter of seconds. It seems that during the vacation the city has been removing the topsoil from the playground in accordance with Japanese radiation regulations.

Ever since the nuclear power plant was destroyed in the 3/11 tsunami last year, we have had to be concerned with the radiation levels. Some of my friends keep radiation Geiger counters in their homes and check levels regularly. I know that the kindergarten where I teach in the next town over, has no longer been able to bring the children to their nature camp that is not far from my house. I see the elementary school principal checking spots around the school every morning as the school is required to send figures to the city offices every day.

Fortunately, the radiation isn't in the extremes in this area but the city officials decided that as precaution, all elementary schools, jr. high schools and kindergartens in Nikko City will have their playground topsoil removed and the playgrounds will be "re-grounded". This month it is our elementary school's turn and the tractors have removed about half an inch of ground and will BURY it at the corner of the playground. Supposedly burying solves the problem... (remind me not to put my picnic blanket over that spot when we have Sport's Day next month...) And actually, the principal is quite happy that the school will get a new playground and that this autumn's weeding and playground clean-up day (the PTA gets involved for a few hours) can be cancelled. The playground will be spic-n-span for Sport's Day in late September.

I guess nobody is going to be playing soccer for a few more weeks.

(Pictures from my cell phone.)

Saturday, August 25, 2012

5:00 am

Tetsu had a scheduled stay at the convalescent home last night so the animals and I had a quiet evening. Quiet until Choco started barking at before 5:00am!

"Okay, okay. Let's go for an early morning walk before it gets too hot."

Here comes the sun ~~~ (doo doo doo doo) ♪♪♪
Here comes the sun,
and I say... It's all right!~~♪♪♪

The blessings of getting up with the sun. I know this in my head but getting out of bed in the morning is still an effort.

Funny little flowers losing all their petals.

So much for the scenery.

"Choco, let's stop at the convenience store for breakfast."

A thirty minute walk through the rice fields and forests takes us to the nearest "Kon-bini" (abbreviation for con-venience store.)

I had a chocolate bun and Choco had meatballs on a stick.

"Wait.... Wait..."

"Mom! I'm done! Can I have some of your bun too?"

Breakfast in front of the convenience store with Choco is not exactly relaxing.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Summer cats

Maggie asked me how the cats fared during my absence this summer. Or rather, how the cat sitters fared.

All cats seem very happy to have people around again regularly. My cat sitters did a great job of feeding, cleaning and loving them. The two sisters (around age 20) took turns coming in the mornings and the evenings but maybe their mother enjoyed being with my kitties the most. She said she would come over after the evening bath and sit and pet whatever cat wanted the most love that day. And I guess mom even fell asleep on the sofa one night and one of her daughters had to come get her!

The heat was and is hard on all the cats but they survive by seeking out spots under the chairs and tables and on window sills.

Toi and Patora are still out in the cat house but it is well shaded by a reed curtain and when a breeze blows by they are probably the coolest of us all. Not too much action from anybody.

Sleep, nap, drowse, snore. In the late afternoons I go searching for a cool spot myself but I question Mi's choice of a nap area!

Anyway, my cat sitters seemed to have enjoyed their part time job and when I asked if they'd be willing to offer their services again some day they said yes so I guess it wasn't too traumatic an experience.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

New gadgets

I was sewing in the morning yesterday. It is too hot to continue into the afternoon. (In the afternoon I stayed downstairs and cut scraps into 2 inch squares for my leader/enders basket. It justified being immobile in front of the TV.)

While in the States I picked up three tools for my sewing room. One turned out to be a bummer, one is great and one is "why do I need this?"

The tool that didn't work out is this LED light that was supposed to attach to my sewing machine. I have a similar light that is electric and at the moment a bit erratic so I thought this battery powered one might be good. Unfortunately, although the light is strong enough, the adhesive on the back peeled off within minutes. This is probably due to the humidity and so I've given up on the adhesive part and will use the light set on the sewing table... which means it gets in the way of sewing. I could probably do without this gadget.

A little tool that I picked up on the spur of the moment at Joanns was this little seam allowance guide by Dritz. I was in the aisle looking for something else when the clerk came by showing a customer a couple of notions. This was one she picked up and I overheard her saying how nice this was to make an even seam allowance. When she put the packet back on the wall I grabbed it up and decided to give it a try. Usually I have sticky felt cushions (the type you attach to the bottom of your chair legs) on my sewing machine for a seam allowance guide. (Come to think of it... why does that adhesive stay attached when the light adhesive didn't?) Yesterday I tried sewing with the little magnetic version and it is wonderful! Hmmm. I wish I'd picked up 5 or 10 more as presents for my sewing friends. Small, lightweight and cheap!

And my not so cheap gadget I picked up at the Long Beach Quilt Festival. This is a Superior Thread Holder. As explained to me, thread is on those spools (or cones) and when it comes off and into the machine, it twists. So... to avoid the twisting, the thread holder is a must. Well, it seemed logical at the time. I was standing at the Superior Thread vendor booth drooling over the thread (not that I needed any) and when the clerk who obviously knows about thread tells me I need this thread holder then I guess I need it!

Using the thread holder yesterday I realized I'd never even THOUGHT about how thread came off the spool and how it never had given me any problems. So why did I need to fix what wasn't even broken? And truth be told, maybe there is a bit too much tension now using the thread holder (but I'm sure that can be adjusted). This is my "why do I need this?" gadget.

And why was I using all these nifty tools? I was sewing strips and then making wedges for my niece's quilt. Moving along nicely there!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Cat food commercial

In Japan we have sushi bars and we have REVOLVING sushi bars.

I was not out of the Japanese airport more than 30 minutes than Tetsu suggested we stop for revolving sushi. Delicious! (and less expensive than a real sushi bar.) The sushi found in revolving sushi bars is made by sushi chefs in the kitchen as well as in front of customers and it is placed on a belt that passes in front of diners.

"Hmm. What looks good today? I'll~~ take~~ THIS ONE!"

A couple of days ago there was this cute cat food commercial on Japanese TV. Wow, some really beautiful felines! Wouldn't it be nice if all cats had such good table manners!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Cutting strips

I finally got up to the sewing room to see what I had in mind for projects.

Ah yes... At the Long Beach Quilt Festival I bought a pattern with my niece in mind. She loved the sample quilt up on the wall... whether because of the pattern or because of the fabrics used or maybe because of the intricate machine quilting. She decided that it wouldn't be a great first time quilt and left the vendor booth but I looked at it longer and decided I might be able to complete a quilt in time for her entering college (next year). I contemplated buying a pack of dyed fabrics which were very expensive but remembered that I have all the lovely rainbow colors of batiks that Jay sent me a couple of years ago (the stash is dwindling but there is still a lot left!) The quilt is not going to come out exactly the same but I think it will still be nice.

Yesterday morning was spent going through my drawers and cutting up a rainbow of colors into strips. Just love those batiks! I did buy some dyed sashing fabric and cut that up as well. Just getting the cutting all done makes me feel as if this quilt is well on its way! Hopefully today I'll get some sewing in as well. As for the quilting... well, I'll cross that bridge when I get to it. I wish these patterns would have specific quilting instructions instead of "Quilt as you like." I always get stuck at the quilting point... I don't really remember how the sample quilt was quilted... Just that it was detailed and beautiful.

While up in the sewing room I went looking at my shelves and couldn't find the fabric that I had planned to use for more embroidery BOM blocks from Jenny's Promises and Borders. And when I'd left Japan in July I was so sure I'd put everything in sight so that I wouldn't get confused! I ended up preparing a new block from yardage. Those pre-cut blocks will turn up someday and will have to be put to other use.

Ah yes, and I see I was working on a Trip Around the World quilt too. I guess I can't criticize my mother's short memory span because within a month I've forgotten completely what I was planning to do! Maybe more time in the sewing room will jog my brain cells a bit today!

Monday, August 20, 2012

My problem child

Yesterday I made a trip to the vet to pay Choco's boarding bill. Suffice it to say that I'm not telling Tetsu how much I paid!

My vet has known Choco from the day I picked her up on the street. When I came across Choco in the middle of a busy street I figured she was an escaped dog and someone would be wanting her back. She may have been an escaped dog but the owner did NOT want her back. In fact the girl who had raised Choco asked me if I would take her because her father had told her to drop the dog off in the hills. Choco reminded Tetsu and me of our old dog and so we agreed wholeheartedly. My vet was a little concerned because it was obvious that Choco had been an abused animal, but Tetsu and I were adamant. That was 7 years ago.

Choco was nothing like our old dog no matter the physical resemblance. While Shoko our old dog was quiet and forlorn looking, Choco is hyper, barks constantly and cannot learn a whit. She has so many issues it is depressing though in 7 years she has learned not to attack cats. (Choco's one major success.) My vet has been supportive and he has boarded Choco before so he knows her well.

In spite of that, yesterday when I went in his comment about Choco was,

"Taihen. (Hardship) Choco barked the whole time she was here starting at 5:30 am until evening. Partly she just wanted attention, partly she wasn't happy in her surroundings, partly she just likes to bark at movement or noises."

You're telling me? I'm living with getting up by Choco's barking at 5:30 am. I'm the one who has neighbors complaining and who struggles to stay vertical when taking her for a walk. I'm the one who has to stay alert when Choco crosses paths with other dogs and even people. Choco is my bane and blessing. (Well, blessing because thanks to Choco I get my daily exercise. She's my own personal walking coach.)

"You really might try a barking control collar, Tanya. One of those that emits odors might teach her to be quiet for a time. You notice how she never looks a person in the eye? Choco probably has an Attention Deficit Disorder. She's lucky she found you to be her owner. I don't think many other people would be as patient."


Sort of like being told your child is a hellion and handicapped in the same breath.

I repeated the vet's "diagnosis" to Tetsu this morning and for all his complaints about how this dumb dog doesn't listen, doesn't behave, costs a lot of money and doesn't give much love back in return, his comment was,

"Well, the vet's opinion doesn't change what Choco is from yesterday to today. She's still the same dog as we've had for 7 years and we've managed with her. She's not completely without virtues. She has her cute sides too... (he couldn't think of any right offhand.)

Here we are on our morning walk. Choco has ONE doggy friend that she can meet without going berserk. This is Sasuke-kun, a lovable, QUIET dog that exudes friendliness. Too bad he can't teach Choco a few tricks.

We love you anyway, Choco!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Corn on the cob

If anything can be called a summer food, it is corn on the cob!

Driving home from somewhere yesterday, I stopped at a stall along the side of the road that was selling corn (6 ears for $12. That's par for the course.) The family manning the booth had many types of corn available and I was given samples as I stood looking at my choices. Yum! Sweet!

"Would you like to try our white corn? It is the sweetest variety we raise. Here try it raw."

"RAW? As in uncooked? I've never eaten corn raw before. Is it really edible?"

"Here, try it! Of course most people will cook it but we farmers like to eat it raw."

I'm telling you, that raw corn was delicious!

At home I did cook the corn and served it cold without any salt or butter on it. Japanese like to eat corn unadulterated (but usually not raw) and it is just as tasty without the extra calories. Japanese ladies will daintily shear off kernels one at a time but I'm afraid we ripped into those sweet, tender corn cobs with our teeth! Tetsu was in seventh heaven! We'll be eating a lot of corn this week!

Saturday, August 18, 2012


I am still going slowly around here.

We stopped in to see Tetsu's mother but my summer's pictures were all in daily folders and there wasn't enough time to show her all of them. Yes, digital photography allows a person to take pictures from every angle but that doesn't always mean that every angle is worth keeping. Yesterday I spent a couple hours getting pictures organized.

During my absence, Tetsu seems to have focused on keeping the house cleaned up and he left the yard to grow wild. Yesterday he spent out in the heat pulling weeds and trimming plants. I'm sure glad HE likes to do it because I'm not an enthusiastic gardener. He has turned the house and the kitchen back over to me so I need to get back into the habit of cooking and cleaning.

And I'm slowly unpacking my bags. Fabric, crafty things, books. I see the fabric I bought and wonder what are my Works In Progress and how I planned to use my purchased fabric. Gratefully I still have one more week before school and classes start again and maybe I can squirrel up in the sewing room next week for some intensive sewing!