Friday, May 26, 2017

Doing bad while doing good

Well, the alphabet quilt is arranged and ready for piecing. (Thanks to a rainy day)


By the time I had appliqued the letters and sewn the first row, the rain had stopped. I needed to move around a bit after a day inside, so I went out through the gate with my little broom and sweeping bin to clean up the street. I like both the exercise and the pleasure of a clean street.

I usually start at my gate, sweeping south, down one side to the corner and up the other side. I can usually fill the bin at least twice, and empty it into one of the large bags I bring home from rice delivery.
As this road was once a back ally, very few houses open on to this street but on to the larger street on the other side of the block. People who sweep their streets, just take care of their own entryway and ignore the back path.
When the house across from mine was sold, house and garden were wiped out and two houses put in the space. One faces the small road to the north and one faces the path, but it is occupied only occasionally by a very young single male. He doesn't seem to own a broom but his plantings are not too messy.
Next to me on the south is a couple who work long hours. The wife is a librarian and drives a long way to work. Both the couple leave early and return late. Their plantings are one large hydrangea, now about to bloom and a small border plant from Okinawa with purplish leaves and purple flowers in the summer.
The third house to the south faces the back street and the nearest corner houses what I would consider one of the world's messiest plants.

This is a deciduous evergreen. Illicium anisatum, or Japanese Star Anise. "Shikimi" in Japanese.

these are often found on the grounds of Buddhist temples and often referred to as sacred anise tree.
The leaves, flowers, and seeds are highly toxic and dried powdered leaves can be burned as incense.

Anyway, this tree is always dropping something... flower petals, leaves, flower stamens, seeds and seedpods... The middle of my sweeping route, at this point the bin is full and I can dump everything into the bag.

on the return trip, there will be more to collect.

Well, yesterday I worked my way to the corner and had finished filling one bag, so went back for another.

Across the street from the house with the messy tree is the "weed lot". I think I have posted about this lot long ago.

Three or four years ago, this lot was a big problem in the neighbourhood.

 The weeds growing among the stones and broken glass were over knee-high.

People passing by chucked their trash into the weeds ... plastic bags, drink cans, cigarette butts, paper, etc.

When a dog pooped here, even on a leash, the owner didn't bother to clean it up. there was plenty of cat poop too from the large collection of cats that get dumped in the park.

Rain collected in the trash and mosquitoes held parties while waiting for the slower walkers. The neighbours complained but no one ever did anything about the problem.
I never took a picture of the weeds, but this is what it looks like now.
The two houses seen in this picture are the backs of the houses facing the park street. There is an apartment to the right and this lot was probably a set-back when the apartment was built. I do not know who the owner is, but for a while it was rented out as a place to park a car.

Well, to get back to the story, as I had to get another bag anyway, I decided to pull up the weeds that were coming up among the rocks. Mostly that is wood sorrel, but there are a few very invasive weeds that will take over if given the chance, and many have seeds that spread by the wind. Because of a rather busy schedule I had not weeded much over the last month.

My friend at the corner stopped by to thank me and offered to take the full bag for trash collection, as the site for collection is nearer her house.

Now, living in the apartment next to the weed lot is Mr. Mori. This is his view from the lot. The only time his windows are opened is when he hears me outside and opens the window to tell me I am trespassing and to stop.

He probably heard the conversation with my friend, because after she had gone into her house, he came out the front door and began yelling at me.  As usual I apologised for disturbing him but that only made him more angry. He was yelling that I was a "dorobo" a burglar.   Huh? for stealing weeds? That I should get out of Japan and go back to my own country.

Of course I have heard his complaints many times and I told him I would be glad to stop if I heard from the owner of the lot to do so. After all, I had not touched his weeds or the trash they were collecting.  Well, my friend, probably having heard the shouting, came back out and walked him off using a soft gentle voice, trying to reason with him. The shouting went on for quite a while but with him away down the street, I took advantage by reaching over the fence and pulling the weeds that were spitting seeds into the lot. I didn't have a bag for the unburnable trash so left it there for another day.   My friend came back shaking her head and I could hear Mori-san still shouting in the distance. She offered to take the second bag I had managed to fill during the ruckus,

The tulips were finished and the salvias are beginning to come up along the fence to the south.
Now I am half-way finished with the second row of the alphabet. The morning sweeping is done as the rain has stopped and a wind from the south is blowing those messy anise leaves up past my gate.
I shall leave poor Mori-san alone for a while. I sure do wish there was an easy way to tell when he is out so I wouldn't upset him but he hardly ever leaves his apartment.

How nice it is to have quilting and activities to fill the days so one doesn't have to sweat the small stuff.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Not a weak week!


Last weekend it was back to the woods with the guys, this time to lead the "Brotherhood Walk" for the Order of the Arrow.

The trail I take the "brothers" on is very seldom used ... probably only by my lead walks several times a year ... and I have to make at least two walks to clear a path under, around, or through fallen trees and dispose of branches and logs across the narrow path.

Aside from scratched arms, the day went well and I stayed to attend an Eagle Board of Review, (being a convenient opportunity as there were several other members of the council advancement committee there for the weekend.) I did not stay for the feast and it was already late when I returned home.

Sunday after church, was our second to last rehearsal for "Choir Sunday" coming up this week.

Monday I left home at 4:00 as usual for rice delivery but when I got to church for picking up the onigiri, there was nothing in the cabinet. The building was locked up tight so I could only turn around and drive back home. As it turned out, the rice was put in the fridge because Sunday had been very hot and the team was afraid of it spoiling over night. No one moved it out in the evening when it cooled off. Two hours wasted and I had to drop off Nikko with her breakfast and rush out the door to school.

Tuesday was even busier. I had to bring the car around from my parking space and unload all the camping gear from the back ... plus the craft items that still remained from Cub camp. Then it was off to find a station I had never driven to ... to pick up Norie and Hiro and Wally Higgins, as we were scheduled to make another rescue run to his garden in Shizuoka. Driving on unknown roads is a big challenge to me and I have to admit at least every trip takes me on at least one "scenic" lap.

Though our start was through rush-hour traffic, we made it pretty far along the highway and decided to stop for an early lunch while the heavy traffic cleared. Above is the view of Fuji from our lunch table.

With Wally riding shotgun, the only scenic routs were the intended ones, but Mt. Fuji and the hills of tea bushes and the fresh new greenery were scenic enough.
At Wally's garden we all lit into an active rescue of what might be saved.

Hiro set to digging up flagstone from the garden paths and filled the area in front of the back seats with big heavy rocks. Norie set out to collect more Spanish moss from the trees and plants from the garden. Some for herself and some for friends.

My goal was bringing back hanging pots that I can put on the walls surrounding my own garden ... partly to hide the ugly cement blocks and also for garden space. I also collected multiple hooks for hanging planters and some really nice pots that I just couldn't let pass. There were lots of ceramic pots which I prefer to the plastic ones that things seem to come in these days, but looking at what Norie was setting outside the car, I decided to leave them behind.

Wally led me to a few orchids attached to trees that we had missed the last trip and they are now clinging to a new location. I filled up the space behind the back row of seats with several boxes of things I wanted. Oh, there were a few hanging plants as well, but now I have all those hooks so why not something to hang on them?

Finally I was beginning to get a little anxious about the amount of vegetation piling up beside the van and afternoon was coming to a close. I had thought of taking the train back to Tokyo and letting Hiro drive to their place and return the car later ... but he was tired from moving rocks and I am unfamiliar with the bus and trains I would need to return home ... and would miss my evening meeting anyway, so decided to drive Norie and Hiro to their place, unload their items, and then find my way home.


We had some drinks of cool tea and latched on to some rescue items from the house.
Norie took this shot of Wally at his garden gate as we pulled out of the narrow space on to another narrow road around a rice paddy and onto the main road.

Even this foggy-looking shot shows his big garden and lovely vintage home. He has moved most of his things to Tokyo but is still making trips during the week to sort through what still remains before the house is sold. It is most probable that whoever buys the property will destroy the house and garden to put in a modern building. I wonder if I could ever leave such a house and garden and can well imagine how glad he is for items going to new homes where they will be loved and cherished.

We made it to Tamagawa Gakkuen using my google map on the mobile phone with Norie's help and Hiro resting in the middle seats among the containers filled with plants.

Everything got unloaded from the middle and rear seat areas in good season and Norie set the phone map with voice instructions for finding my way home in the dark.

It was much more of a "scenic" route home ... just to get back to the highway ... only too dark to enjoy the scenery. The voice would say, "turn right, then right again" so I would get over into the right lane and when I reached the intersection it would say, "turn left". Finally I found the highway and could ignore the voice the rest of the way.

I got the items unloaded at my gate and the camping gear back into the rear where my boxes had been. Nikko was glad to see me and jumped into the car for the ride back to my parking space.
When we returned home, the phone was ringing and Norie was calling with worried voice to see if I made it home, saying my first turn when I left their place was in the wrong direction. (so much for the voice instructions)!

Well, it was way past my bed time and Wednesday was a work day ... walk and feed the dog and hit the station by 6:15.

After school, there was a lovely late "Appreciation lunch" for the teachers and staff given by the parents, so instead of departing I stayed and enjoyed the festivities and talking with my fellow teachers with whom there is seldom time for a chat during a normal  day.

After a week of hot sunny days and time for ME, Thursday turned out to be rainy.

My first goal was to find places to put the goodies that were now in my care. There was a whole day of "musical pots" something like musical chairs without the music... That came in the evening during out final choir practice.

The little pink-white cactus flower in the picture above was blooming to the right of the azalea bushes along the east side of the house.

I had set those cacti there to discourage the local cats from using the soil for their business (however, in the small space by the lily, seen with multiple buds, was a large deposit of cat poop.






Above the garden gate the biwa are beginning to ripen.

And, as I sorted through the pots on the step below the gate leading into the garden, I noticed a few volunteers coming up.

Maybe I will put them in pots and take them to camp to plant.
I'm sure the wild birds would enjoy the ripening fruit .



In a hanging pot on the gate, I found this succulent beginning to bloom.


This was a rescue from an earlier trip to Wally's garden.


Since it is a new plant to me, I am always surprised by when or how  ... or even if ... things will bloom.







The Easter cactus sitting outside my third floor greenhouse on top of the air conditioner unit has finally decided to bloom.
Maybe it was waiting for the orchid in the background to finish up.

My plants don't seem to like competition.





And, just on the other side of the window, another spiky succulent,
that was an even earlier rescue from Wally's house , has put out spikes in every direction of these tiny flowers.

Thursday turned out to be another crammed day of getting things settled amid the showers and ending with choir filling up what was left of the day (and evening).

Today I must do laundry and it can be hung inside.

Meanwhile, this is really a quilting blog and with new babies coming like the spring rain, I have measured and marked and cut an alphabet quilt for the next customer.
Yesterday during a rain-break, I laid out the pieces to find a good order of colors to go with the prints. I have only now to choose the fabrics for the alphabet and get a good balance of color, then I can begin  stitching the blocks together. If the rain continues through the day, I may have something to show before another week flies by.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Remembering Mom


Mother's day has come and gone.

The weekend was crammed with activities, and I didn't have much time to reflect on the occasion.

Often a highlight of my weekend is a visit on Skype or Facetime with one or two or more of my children (and sometimes grandchildren)

As a mother of six, plus the sons and daughters-in-law, and a fine selection of "Kids-on-loan,"I have been overly blessed.

To my own parents, I was a trial most of my life, the black sheep that was "never going to to amount to a hill of beans".
This is the last picture of my mom, taken in 1983 with my dad.

By that time, my own wonderful children were beginning to show that, though I might be lazy and stupid, I had managed to raise an exceptional group of kids. How proud my parents would have been, were they alive last week, to hear the news that my daughter, Marie, had been selected by the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women, as one of the Commonwealth's "Unsung Heroines in 2017" Selected as "A woman who, without fanfare or recognition, uses her time, talent, spirit, and enthusiasm to enrich the lives of others"
In a ceremony at the Massachusetts State House next month she will receive a citation from the Governor.

This news put a special glow to my weekend, and indeed the days that follow.
Friday I was off to "Cub Camp", where I was to manage the leather working station for the Saturday program.
After an evening of prep work, I woke to the sound of rain. Well, rain had been expected. The crafts went well, as did the rest of the activities. My pack cleaned up on the awards in spite of the weather and after a box-oven cake, I departed the campsite so that I could make an early departure on Sunday for choir. I had to warn members too keep a distance because I was still reeking of campfire smoke.

Norie and family showed up for a dinner to celebrate the day and I have been enjoying the leftovers.
With Leia, we had some good rounds of a game of number twelve dominoes. (using the old set I once played with my granddad.)

As for quilting, it runs in the genes.

This "Storm at sea" quilt was made for me by my mother.

Believe it or not, I was allowed to chose the pattern and storm at sea remains one of my all-time favourites.

The strange thing is, though I also chose the fabric, I hate pink.
I selected it because I was such a tom-boy and I thought I should have something a bit more feminine.
Actually, green and blue were the colors I liked best and probably would have made a spectacular quilt.
By now I now know how much love goes into a quilt and the hidden blessings.(and maybe hopes that someday I would straighten out and fly right.) It is a piece of my mom's love that was there all along.



This morning, on the step-tansu above my bed, the orchid cactus had begun to bloom.

This one has become so big and top-heavy that I worry about it falling off the step.


Having been on the run since Friday, it was time to make the rounds with the watering can.

I notice several other cacti in bloom and a few that were "stealth-bloomers" while I was out in the woods playing with the boys.












Two cacti above the white cat have flowers  and this halo of pink has been the start of the blooming season for many years.

It needs re-potting as it keeps growing toward the sun in the south and no matter how often I rotate the pot, it is in dnger of tipping over as it leans.

Trouble is, that is a spiny little sucker ... and I don't know how to go about re-potting it. Maybe I need to take it to a store that sells those and get advice.





Another orchid has begun to open outside my garden door.


This one is a rescue and just tucked in among the spiked fronds of my umbrella palm.

The Spanish moss also came with the orchid.

There are a couple dozen more flower buds getting ready to follow.














And ... hanging from my laundry pole, is another item rescued from the same garden as the orchids.

It looks like  it might be some kind of begonia.

Behind it is a very heavy ball of Staghorn Fern.
That was an earlier rescue from the same garden and luckily made it through the winter. ... I think I brought it in a few days when we had snow, and hung it from the shower curtain bar.
It seems to be happy here outside my window.

Tonight I caught the train home as usual, around 8:pm ... and as usual it was a sardine can with barely any room for one's body above the feet.

We rode one stop and at that station, everyone was required to get off. The train stood empty a while and finally took off  and as trains came and went in the other direction, the platform became more and more crowded.

Finally, another train pulled in. Of course it was already crammed with people and since I was one of the last off the earlier train, standing in the front, I was shoved into the already packed car by those waiting behind. There weren't even enough hand-grips to accommodate that multitude of commuters.
Hard to believe that there are times when I can actually sit and do a bit of piecing during my rides into town and back.
No explanation of why the train was removed from service so I will probably never know.

Well, time to give Nikko her late night walk and take out the trash for tomorrow's collection, and get my stuff laid out for school tomorrow. That is one routine that isn't likely to be interrupted.




Friday, May 5, 2017

Happy Children's day!


When my boys were small, we had  a wonderful display set in our large entry-way of all these items.

It was then called Boy's Day and some of the display, like screens made from arrows standing in a wooden frame, Samurai armour, carp streamers and weaponry had belonged to my husband when he was a child.  This printed banner  has Girl's Day decorations on the back and is a lot easier to take out and set up. Maybe I need to make a quilted version . I do have a printed carp table runner somewhere.

Nikko and I set out in the morning to find real carp streamers flying in the light breeze. As we walked through the back streets of town and peered down each cross street, we found NOTHING. My, how customs have changed over the years I have lived in this part of town where once long strings of streamers were seen flying over fields and above rooftops. 



These are the only streamers we found, flying from a pole inside a temple gate. (among the power lines).

On the way home, we passed the vet hospital and I noticed it was open. I stopped in to ask about Nikko's vaccination I had missed, as the day set for my area, I was at work all day. Usually Nikko goes to the park with me and gets her vaccination for rabies and a registration tag for the year. The vet said if I brought the postcard, she could get her shot and registration right there, so that is what we did. She got tested for heart-worm and was issued pills to take through mosquito season. Dog care is not cheap but nice to know Nikko is in good shape for such an old dog. She is also a better weight now that Paul is not slipping her  treats of people-food.

Since the sun was out, I decided to take my Ohio Star quilt to the park for a picture. for some reason I did not have a digital picture among my collection. 


This is called, "Ohio Star too far east for too long". It is all made out of vintage Japanese fabrics. This was made in 1995 and I notice one of the very light woven fabrics has deteriorated in several pieces. I don't think I can take it apart but I wonder if I could applique some other fabric over the worn spots. What would you do?


The backing is made out of Tenugui ... a lot of Kabuki prints and a few others picked up on travels here and there. 

The rest of the day, I wasted looking for my bagpipe practice chanter. I have not played my pipes since moving back to Toshimaen, as there is no place I might play without disturbing the whole neighborhood. I knew where it was before moving but look as hard as I could, all I could find was dust and more dust. Gee, I would hate to have something happen to me and my children to come here and see such a dusty place. Well, the windows are open and the dust storms are coming in from China. Keeping surfaces clean for even one day is a challenge ... and that dust had been gathering in some of those corners for years. Well, I guess I don't have a dust allergy anyway. (and for all the good it did, I at least wiped the surfaces clean).

Anyway, I really can't think of any other place to look, and I had been asked to play it with a choir piece. I suppose I will now be lying awake at night wondering where that chanter went. Maybe to the trunk room with some other things. I think it was in the piano bench and we gave the piano to the church because of lack of space. I can't recall if the bench went to storage or was given away. I found a gold metal won at a competition and some new reeds given me by a cousin and never used... but chanter is a mystery, and half a day wasted.

Since, when I turned 50, I began subtracting each year, I am now on the brink of my second childhood. Soon I can start blaming my lack of knowledge on my youth.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Feeling lazy


With a string of holidays lined up, I have been just puttering around ... not doing much of anything and a lot of nothing.

We have had a few nice sunny days and that kind of weather lures me outside.

I had plants that needed re-potting and a bit of weeding and trimming of bushes

The little carp streamer has been dancing in the breezes outside my front door.
This one I selected is less fancy than some of the dyed fabrics. The eyes are just fused with big blanket stitches around the border and the tail has also been turned with large stitches.

I wanted to get some pictures of traditional carp streamers flying and the best place for that is a nearby school ground but with school out for Golden week, they may have been taken down early.

I do have a set of traditional carp in my cupboard but since that door is so hard to put back in place, I have hesitated to take them out. When the kids were small we set up a tall bamboo pole topped with a set of wheels that rotated in the wind and a long banner at the top. The big carp was for the father and the smaller ones for the sons.

The newspaper had a picture of a wide field of carp being flown in Tohoku, one for each child lost in the earthquake and tsunami. Tanya had better luck finding carp streamers to photograph. Look here!



The iris outside the front gate didn't bloom last year but seem to be making up for lost time.

This picture is a bit washed out as the tips of the petals are a soft purple.

he lilies are getting ready for a show and this year there are a lot of volunteers as well.

The gardenia is setting out plenty of buds but it is looking a bit sad because of the leaves that had a caterpillar attack in the fall.



Nikko has gone into her mega-shedding mode ...
The one where the under hair comes out in big fluffy tufts.
I'm sure it was kicked off by my heavy cleaning attack on Tuesday, running the vacuum and dusting and polishing all over the house.

I should take her out in today's breeze and give her a work-over but she really hates being brushed or combed. I recall with longing, my Mom's dog, Kimberly, who used to throw herself in front of the vacuum cleaner to get a going over before you could do the floors. Nikko has issues with the vacuum too. Now she leaves the room when it comes out but several years ago she escaped to another floor entirely until called down after the offending item was safely put away.

 The mola is moving slowly. It is rather strange with the dark green in the edge rather than the lighter one. The light has a slight print and I wanted it to show more but neither really shows up as planned.

Rather than take it all apart and start over, I will keep at it. Can I blame the turtle for being slow?

Tomorrow the choir is gathering to attend the funeral of the mother of our long-time organist. Because of the long string of holidays there will be no choir practice in the evening.
We are working on the music for "choir Sunday", coming next month. These pieces make me feel like I have been doing verbal push-ups. There is a challenge to memorize  the pieces, and for most music, that is easy for me ... but these pieces are challenging just looking at the music and sometimes I have to decide if I will be watching the notes or the words because they are racing by so fast I can't see both. I had better do some of those push-ups at home. (not as easy as quilting while watching TV).

Saturday, April 29, 2017

A festive re-opening of "Blue and White"


A while ago I had mentioned some mug-rugs I had made for Amy Katoh in celebration of the re-opening of her small "Blue and White" shop.

Each week as I walked to the station after school, I looked up at the corner location where the store was set to re-open. I did get notice of the opening party to be held from 2 to 4:pm on Saturday, the 29th.

Since I have an english class from 2:pm, I was not sure I could attend, so on my way home from school on Wednesday, I dropped in to wish them well on the re-opening and hand over the mug-rugs I had made in celebration. Saturday dawned warm and sunny, a beautiful day ... and the first night I had slept with windows opened and only one layer of covers.

All morning I toyed with the idea of making a run into town after my class was over. When that moment came, I looked up at the clouds rolling in and wondered if I needed to go home and close the windows in my greenhouse ... but I kept walking to the station. On the train, I wondered if I should just get off at the next stop and buy needed dog food or keep going. Well, I decided to keep going and I'm glad I did.

The entire trip takes about an hour including the walk at each end, so it was just about 4:00 when I came up through the park toward the shop.

On the corner of the street, there was "Music"!


This scene takes me back many years ... something hardly ever seen these days is a "chindon'ya,

These are street entertainers, employed to advertise the opening of new stores or sales or plays or other events.
Dressed in bright costumes and playing gongs or drums and a variety of instruments, parading in the streets, they used to be a common site. 50+ years ago, there were some living nearby and were often riding in the same train car on the return from the city.

These had been hired by someone for the opening and told not to disclose the donor. They certainly added to the festive occasion and I was glad not to have missed toe performance as they paraded up the street from the corner to the shop.

The last few weeks, an escalator had been built to the second floor and Amy was greeting visitors on the area at the top.

The windows to the right of the escalator are the shop itself.















The shop was still full of well-wishers and some shoppers.

A table was spread with good things to eat.

There were people I know  ... some from long ago, like Amy's son who was once one of my cub scouts, a church friend choosing some indigo koi-nobori (carp streamers), and a nice young man I met for the first time, who has a soul-food shop across the street.













The musicians came in to enjoy the goodies


and certainly be thanked and admired.









Here are a few items from the shop shelves.


Not everything  is blue and white, but those colors are heavily represented.














A nice supply of sashiko


and tenugui ....










Books ... chopstick rests ... small spoons ... and other goodies ....








And, outside the shop entrance, many many gifts of flowers from friends, wishing Amy well in her new location.


It is clear this neighborhood icon is a much loved member of the community.


As I arrived close to the ending time, I did not want to stat too long. I'm sure everyone involved in the opening was tired from many hours of work in preparation.

Amy told me that at a time in her life when she should be retiring, people must think her crazy for starting her business all over again.
I'm so glad she has!


Here is a picture taken from the corner.

The white metal fence is in front of the space where her shop used to be.
The signs on the fence point the way to the new location.

At the far right you can see the blue and white banner at the top of the escalator.

If you are ever in the area of Azabu-juban,
please take a short walk from the station to visit Amy's shop at its new location. If you like indigo items of clothing, specially dyed fabrics, or a gift to take home, I'm sure you will find something.

Actually, a koi-nobori rode the train home with me.

I shall have to hang it out tomorrow...
Tonight I am hearing thunder so I had better take Nikko on her evening jaunt and make sure the windows in the green house are closed.

Friday, April 21, 2017

A Friday finish!


Wednesday the birth of a baby girl was announced with a darling picture on Facebook.

She was in the arms of her smiling father, Pastor Ivan.

At that time I was still quilting a cable into the border of the I-Spy quilt.

With Thursday and Friday relatively free, I determined to finish the quilting and put on the binding.
On Thursday evening, on my way to choir practice, I stopped off at a small sewing shop the next station up the line to buy some bias tape.

I need to get wide bias because I sew it on double and then turn it to the back. This leaves the bias rounded rather than flat and I expect it to wear better than single bias sewed flat.

I had planned to buy a light blue but none of the blues went well with the blue in the border so I decided on a dark red that matched both the red in the border print and the red sneakers on the backing.

I tried to arrange the blocks so there would be no definite up or down, but the sneaker print is directional. It was also a bit narrower than the top so I added a gold strip. Along the edge I used a permanent marker I had bought for the choir to use to sign the last baby quilt.... writing, "I SPY... a dancing cat in a pink tutu, a racing car with wheels  of blue, count the cats or bears or frogs, butterflies or barking dogs, and as you look , here is my wish, find some love in every stitch. April 2017 name, and Tokyo Japan.

Tomorrow I will write a note to the family and a little guide as to how to play I SPY, and other games that can be played such as an alphabet hunt or counting games.

So many gifts given to babies are outgrown sooner or later but I have read that one of the best gifts one can give a child is the gift of words. Those words can last a lifetime and the two "big" brothers are in the best place to give those words. I hope they will have fun in the process.

Last Sunday afternoon, Norie and I went home with Paul's best friend, Wally. Sakura Shinmachi, where he is living, was having a cherry blossom festival. The street was blocked off with a stage set up and some idol performing to huge crowds. Walking along the street through the packed walkways with everyone (except us three) trying to get a good view of the performers, was a challenge.

The barriers were being moved as our visit ended and I wanted to take a look at one of the cherry trees that had green flowers.

Usually one street will have all the same kind of tree but this street had quite a variety of different cherries. Some were almost finished blooming and dropping petals but others were in full bloom.

I don't recall ever having seen a green-flowered tree.



This was a pretty good sized tree.

The variety is "Gioiko".
I found two names, Cerasus Lonnesiana,
and Cerasus serrulata 'Gioiko'.

Often, in some city places, trees are labeled with their Japanese common names but one hardly ever sees the Latin names, even in the nature park.

My father always referred to trees by their Latin names and I have found that very useful as one can see how various trees are related to those back in the States or other parts of the world.

I have gone through many of my Japanese tree books and written in notes as to Latin names and related trees. In fact, in 1990 to 1991 I wrote and illustrated a book on plant identification  of local plants in English, for Scouts to use for rank advancement ... as a two-year project for a PHD in Commissioner Science . I dedicated that book to " the two Pauls in my life: my father Paul Jerabek, who supplied and nurtured the seed, and my husband Paul Fukuda, who helped with the reaping and harvest." In those days, we only had word processors and not only did my husband help translating information, but also arranging the pages. That book was put into a computer file as a project of another scouter so that if I wish I can add more  and edit the maps as times change.

With a day of sun yesterday, I dragged my bedding out to the third floor "balcony" (railing outside the windows) for some airing.

On each corner of the area I have a pot of cymbidium orchids, and I found this one in bloom.

The leaves are a bit ragged having spent the winter out in the cold and rain, but the flowers are lovely.

The "Easter" cactus sitting on top of the air conditioning unit beside the orchid has just begun to show the start of tiny red flower buds.

I also noticed many of the others in the cacti collection are developing buds. Hopefully they don't all wait until the week I am away at Scout camp like they often do.
The sun was out part of today too and I am down to only a T-shirt and one warm layer. Quite a change from a few days ago!

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Where did the week go???


Quilting moves along slowly in the ditch. The I-Spy quilting is now at the inner border. I am now looking at those five-inch prints and thinking a inner square, an inch and a half inside might do the job. Thinsulate is such a good batting and will not shift over time and doesn't need lots of quilting.

I buy thinsulate on a bolt, so I have one of 40-weight, one of 60, and another of 80. For this little quilt I am using 60 weight. I think it is suitable for summer or winter in a home that has central heat. My vision is a quilt for the sofa that can be used in play or tossed over a napping child.

The week has been filled with activities as always but with plenty of extras tossed in.
The cookie factory with Leia filled up Saturday and both Nikko and I ware so tired we both over-slept Sunday morning and I missed the first service on Sunday, causing worry among the choir members.

Monday the usual early rise for onigiri delivery, then to school. There was much preparation going on for the school's "Spring Show" and with the art teacher out sick, a list of last-minute things that needed to be done.

I found out that for the teacher's "dance" performance, we needed to wear something pink. Well, pink being my least favorite color, I needed to do a little shopping. I was not going to spend even 1,000 yen on something I would never use so I looked through the 100-yen shop and found a light red bandanna.

Tuesday I found some bleach and soaked the bandanna in a mixture of bleach and water until it looked about light enough to read "pink". I had hoped to hang it in the sun but nothing but rain and more rain throughout the weekend and on into the week.

Well, when that was done, I sat down to open my laptop and  read another request ... that the teachers would bring a wig for the performance. Well, long ago I had made a Raggedy Ann yarn wig for some Halloween costume ... but, when I went to the costume box, I found it had either been thrown out as something nobody wanted or taken by one of the kids to add to their own box.

Luckily, I had been given some left-over yarn from a friend when his wife died. I found a ball of blue that looked as if something had been knitted and pulled out, but the ball looked to be mostly there.
I dug out a large crochet hook and made a mesh cap, then cut what was left into  just under four inch segments and tied them to the mesh. I was thinking if I didn't have enough, there was a bit of a green ball I might be able to add here and there. In the end, I decided what I had was good enough for a quick performance with me in the back row.

The show was Wednesday morning and some of those teachers were fantastic in their get-ups. I have had good reports on the show and I'm sure there are lots of videos floating around. The kids and teachers were so creative. The back-drops created over the school year were very pretty and held up well... worth the hours crawling around on my knees taping paper pieces together and reinforcing the painted sections. (to say nothing of washing splattered paint off of kids and tables and floors.

Thursday  evening, a service followed choir practice. (I think we may have had half a day of sun somewhere but off and on rain) Today is sun at the moment and tonight I have a cub scout pack meeting to run. Saturday English lessons, and a full day on Sunday with three services. Then another week will be in line. I am begging off a cub camp the next weekend. If I go I need to drive because I would have to take the dog and she cannot ride on the train. It would mean that in addition to the camp fee, I would have to pay gas and tolls while missing my teaching job ... and a late night return after the campfire so as to sing Sunday morning. All that in a muddy valley with only a few port-o-potties.
The kids will spend the day with shooting sports...  We had one of those events in the fall and one last year too. Long ago I taught archery in a summer camp but I can't say I really think kids need so much of these activities. Only a few of my pack is going and they don't plan to spend the night so a trained leader is not all that needed.

Well, back to the stitching.  I am nearing the end of the inner border and thinking of something simple for the three-inch outer border that won't detract from the print.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

The quilting has begun



Finally, after a warm sunny day yesterday, the cherry trees are in bloom. The "street" (or is it a lane?) in front of my house is dotted with cherry petals blowing in the wind ... and the nearest tree is a block away!

It has not been the best of weeks as the root of my front tooth was cracked so it had to be pulled. The dentist made a partial denture to fill the gap but I am finding it almost impossible to eat anything other than oatmeal and other soft things that don't require chewing. Not too good for a nibbler like me. I sometimes think of that bully who shoved my face into the drinking fountain and killed the tooth so long ago. I wonder if she continues to bully people.

I think about the teachers who helped to make poor students the object of bullying. Did they ever know what they were doing? The math teacher who gave a timed test every Friday, then seated the students according to the test results every Monday morning ... Causing the class to laugh at the joke that I ... sitting in the last chair ... was the only student to never move. (because I could never finish the test in the given time, thus failed.)
I think of the Science teacher who, when my twin brother won the state science award, read all my grades to the class and asked how I could be so stupid when my twin was so smart. and ... the English teacher who assigned writing a poem ... the best assignment I had ever had because when I couldn't read, I memorized the words as others read and words that rhymed were easiest to remember. Well, when I brought in my assignment, the teacher walked around the room passing the homework back. She would stop now and then to read out one of the poems she liked. As she went on, I thought maybe she was saving my poem to last because it was much better than those she was reading ... BUT, when she got to me at the last, she did not read my poem. She ripped it up and threw it in the wastebasket saying it was too good and I couldn't possibly written it. That was the only time my mother ever spoke up for me, and then the teacher wanted a copy of the poem for the school literary magazine. Sadly, I had written it as I made it up and the only copy had gone to the trash. If there was any apology, it only went to my mother and in the eyes of the class I was not only too stupid but copied the work of others.
When I walked down the halls, kids walking past would hit the books out of my hands, flying around the hall floor. When I was at my locker, they would slam the door on me. In PE, I was always the last to be picked for a team (and the main bullies were the ones the teacher asked to form teams) Even walking in a line, those girls would step on the back of my shoes, making them come off.

Now I am a teacher. (And that is why ... because I just didn't want another kid to fail childhood 101).
I have developed nerves of steel and a teflon skin, which worked well when I first came to Japan as a weird foreigner. I have long ago forgiven the bullies but I am ever vigilant in school or in scouting to support behaviour  that encourages each child. We build on our successes, even if they are small steps.

Being rather depressed about the tooth situation, I have mostly stayed home and spent my time pulling weeds and working on the I-Spy quilt. I added a border of Japanese print which may remind the family of their time here in Tokyo ... and maybe learn a few Japanese words.
Then, yesterday afternoon, I basted the backing and thinsulate batting and top and began quilting in the ditch. I am enjoying the process and looking forward to the day it is ready to present to its new owners. The most recent quilt has been seen covering the darling baby girl who returned from the hospital The father claimed it to be a magic quilt because the baby sleeps quietly under it. I take no credit for doing magic but am happy it is being used and enjoyed.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Spring break is over and spring is yet to arrive


Thursday I met with Norie and a friend to see an exhibit of the works of Yayoi Kusama in the big museum in Roppongi.

The ticket line was long and wound up and back the street lined with trees wrapped in polka dots.
Norie came dotted to fit right into the display.


The lines for tickets and entry and viewing were very long.
It is rather nice that so many people are interested in seeing the works of an old lady artist. (but it was one huge line after another and all moved at a snail's pace).

Cell cameras were allowed in the large hall and I took quite a few pictures but am not able to send them to my computer.
(the problem with having  smart phone that is smarter than I  ... and a Google android that doesn't like Mr. Yahoo)

Most of the work was done in acrylics on large panels and there were some pieces that looked like they would make fine mola art.


On the train returning home, there was an announcement poster about the Sakura Matsuri this week in Toshimaen.

Norie and I decided to take the exit past the Park gates to see if there were any cherry trees in bloom for the festival.

Well, yes, there were lots of flowers in bud but hardly any were opened.

This morning when Nikko and I went past the park near our house, we were able to count 5 flowers on that big tree that were actually blooming. That is four more than we saw on Thursday. On Saturday morning there was only one... But then, we have had a string of cold and rainy days.
I wonder if the park will extend their viewing once the trees are really in bloom.

On Friday my old quilt group met. One member felt sick on the way and called she was returning home. I met up with the other three and we began to walk to our gathering place. The area has been changed so much that after 45 minutes of hunting, we had to call our hostess for a rescue. Every one of the landmarks we used to rely on was gone!

To be safe at the end, we decided to take a taxi back to the station ... and it was a good plan because the rain had begun again.

Over the long week doing not much outside, I was able to make progress on another I-Spy quilt.

Today I have added a one-inch blue border around the edge and if I have time, will cut a piece of Japanese print that is left from a recent border on my scout leader's alphabet baby quilt.

I am planning to give this one to the two first sons of the pastor who is expecting the new baby at the end of this month.
The idea is that they teach the new baby words, making a game of the quilt. If it lives on a sofa it can be tossed over any sleeping child. The way people come and go, the baby will never remember me anyhow and something the family can share just seems like a better idea.

Once the border is on, I will quilt in the ditch and add some light quilting in each five-inch square.

I work slowly enough I can figure this out as I go.




Now, there is a member of the family lurking in the doorway.

This dog is good at reading body-language.

She knows that when my coffee is gone, she will get her nightly outing.


She can tell by the tilt of my coffee cup when the last drop has been consumed. At that point she begins her pep-talk.

On the other hand, I am not overly eager to bundle up and go out in the cold. Of course tomorrow is an early rise for rice delivery, then school .... then, hopefully, the dentist because my front tooth came un-glued and I will have to go out in public with a gap in my smile ... or maybe give up smiling... or should I get one of those masks ...
Ah well, hopefully next time there is a holiday, it will go a bit better.