Friday, February 5, 2016

Taking the good with the bad

Any chance to get together with my children is good and the support of family under sad circumstances took away some of the pain.

Here are Jon, Ken, and Marie in back and Kimie and Julie in front. We had just finished a lunch break and Kimie was headed out to the station to get the Narita express on the first leg of her return to Oregon.

At the return to the hospital for the evening visiting hour, we were met with unwanted news.
It had been noticed sometime between the 8th and 9th of January that Paul had suffered a stroke, as his left arm was not moving. A CT scan verified the issue but unfortunately the treatment for pneumonia and stroke were at odds. A second CT scan on the 11th showed the whole right brain was involved and the end would have not been positive. He passed away peacefully shortly after, surrounded by family and our pastor.

The following days were a blur but through the kindness of the pastor of the Japanese church where we were members in the early 60's, a Christian cremation was arranged.

Paul, whose passion in life was being a bridge, had ended with one more between the two churches.

There have been so many hoops to jump through and my Japanese skills are sorely inadequate. Norie needed to get some home time and Marie, who has lived in Boston since her college days, was most helpful in dragging me around to assorted offices to get things done ... figuring out which bills had not been paid, reporting to the bank and ward offices, and sorting paperwork.

Jon and Julie Jr. were the next to return to their families and work.  I really needed to get some of my life back too and made a date to meet with Tanya and Carin (AKA Queenie) at the Tokyo Dome quilt show. They have both made some great posts on the show and it was such a joy to be there together. Once a year is NOT enough!

I am so grateful for all my families, kids and relatives, my church and choir family, my school family, and my Scouting family,  ... and even my precious blogging friends.  This is not the way I would have chosen to find out who my real friends are and I can never thank you all enough for your kind words and prayerful thoughts.

Last weekend I went as planned to the Women's  Conference and enjoyed a prayerful time with old friends and new. I taught a hand quilting basics class and enjoyed the results ... some students going on to make a second project.  Marie and Ken were the last to leave the day before and Nikko and I are getting back to the schedule, though she now walks with me instead of running beside Paul's bike.

There are still months worth of problems to sort out ... debts, taxes, paperwork... still, Piper is singing and the plum tree is getting ready to celebrate the February birthdays. Without my in-house translator of quilt show names of quilters I am wondering if I can put any posts of the work.

So ... that is what is happening in chilly Tokyo for all who have wondered.
Tomorrow is another day ... "Scout Sunday"and I have promised to give the children's message. Life goes on.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Not much time for blogging

The New Year has started out pretty crummy.

The 31st my husband spent at church, helping to prepare the new year's breakfast items for the homeless out church serves.

the 1st he was off to work with she serving of that meal and, though I expected him early to help with preparations for our own family celebration, he came late in the afternoon rather dragging and went off to take half an hour nap which lasted the rest of the day.

Next day he read an article about when you might have pneumonia, and decided to go to the hospital. He called from there to say he was admitted. I was, by then busy trying to tidy up his things as well as mine and suggested we call off the party. No, no. all the food was bought.

Sunday after church I got a call that he was in the ICU in serious condition. I went there and found that small hospital was not a place that could give him the care he needed and though they insisted it was dangerous to move him, we contacted the University Hospital and got him moved.

So ... I have spent most of the time since then in waiting rooms. Now all six of our kids are here and I was able to skip the 12:30 to 1:00 visiting time and stay home to take down the Christmas tree and toss some of the rotting food.

Waiting room time got more 9-patch blocks done. My muslin scraps come in a variety of whites, some whiter than others. I laid some of them out and am wondering if the whiter fabric is going to make it look bad.

Meanwhile, the salmon-pink cactus is still putting out blooms.

Like me, it has yet to move beyond Christmas.

and ....

this tiny flower appeared on the tip of a three pronged bit of cacti I had found and dipped into rooting hormone and stuck in a pot of dirt I just happened to have on hand.

A tiny thing but hanging in there.

Maybe a symbol of my year so far.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Design-floor decisions

 Using leftover muslin from the last few quilts and my overly full tin of two-inch blocks, I decided to join the Celebrate Hand Quilting 9-patch challenge.

Now that the blocks are piling up, I need to figure out how this quilt will go together.  The fastest way would be to cut the remaining scrap muslin into six inch blocks and alternate the lay-out.

Of course, when cutting the two inch scraps, I had leftovers that could be made into one-inch blocks. Well, not wanting to waste fabric ... why, I feel that way I don't know but I do toss anything smaller than a one-inch square.

Anyway, those bits have turned into three inch 9-patch blocks.

So ... the plot thickens. If I decide to use the small blocks between the large ones, I will need to cut the remaining scraps into 3 x 6 pieces. Of course that also means some of the larger scraps might have to be chopped up to make more one-inch blocks and the quilt gets a bit busier.
As far as the quilting it would mean filling many 3 x 6 areas rather than fewer 6 x 6 areas.

Of course I could figure out some kind of a border to use up the smaller blocks. Straight or on point or using solids might work.

I rather imagine when I cut the leftover muslin, there will be some scraps that are small and I could use for the smaller blocks.

One other layout on my floor is adding fabric to those little blocks and putting them between the larger ones.

That would take a lot more piecing but it would also eliminate the amount of area to quilt once the in-the-ditch work is done.

I am now running out of small scraps to cut so I really need to figure out how the layout should go.

If it is any help in deciding, I have no plans for the piece I am working on. Probably large areas of light fabric would not be very good as a baby quilt. It is already too big for a table runner so probably a single bed cover is the best plan ... if I don't want to buy more muslin (and I don't).
No plan ... no deadline ... just take-along work for the new year.   advice welcome.

Norie's family came for Christmas and it was so nice to have help in the tiny kitchen.

Leia had school on Christmas and arrived later in the day with her father. Since she will have holidays through New Years, the children were assigned projects of their own choosing to finish and report on. Leia got out the craft book and found instructions for a pin cushion.  She measured and sawed a section from a heavy cardboard core of a wrap tube. She had to go through my collection of saved tubes to find one of the correct dimensions.

After covering a small cardboard circle with fabric and also the tube, she glued the small circle into the bottom of the tube.

Then she measured and marked a circle of fabric for the upper half.

She stitched carefully along the seam line with tiny even stitches. I have taught adults hand piecing and their stitches were never more small or even than those Leia was making.

When she finished, we used excess scraps of batting to stuff the top and she gathered her stitches tightly and glued the finished top into the upper part of the tube.

The pattern called for a bowtie on the side so I pulled out my boxes of saved scrap ribbon. Sure enough, she quickly found a good length of purple ribbon to go with the three purple fabrics she had dug out of the scraps from Ben's big boy quilt. That was quickly tied into a bow and  ... as in the instructions, she cut the ends with V cuts.

Her goal .... get her homework project out of the way so she can enjoy the holiday ...

Does she look happy?

Kind of a blurry picture.....

How about this one?   there was time left over to enjoy the turkey dinner.
Hope you go into the new year with all your projects finished off too.

I think I will need to take a few lessons from Leya.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Not much to blog about

According to clues around me, Christmas is coming.

My cacti began competing with each other about a week ago.

One pot at the back has a pale whitish pink.

One to the left is a bright red.

And one at the right has a rather orangey salmon pink. That one I first saw blooming one summer in my brother's home.  I had never seen one that color and brought home a cutting wrapped in tissue in a zip-lock baggy. Actually I have never purchased a Christmas cactus. My first one came back in 1963, a pressed flower in a Christmas card. That cutting went into a pot and flourished, giving off many cuttings over the years.
Actually, other than the one I brought back in my luggage, all these have been grown from accidental fall-out. I have a few pots with several varieties sharing the pot ... Fall-out found on the floor of my little greenhouse-bedroom.

Right now I should be working frantically to finish up a gift for my second daughter and get it into the mail. Sadly, that gift is going to be way late. Even the tissue box cover is only in the drawing stage and the door decoration is also still on paper.

The past week I have had a really bad cold and cough. My main activity has been filling the wastebasket with used tissues. Finally, at the end of the week, I let Paul talk me into a trip to the doctor. I usually just let a cold run its course but the coughing was cutting into my sleep.  At last I have been able to get some sleep and today have begun hunting things that got moved to make way for the little Christmas tree, decorated by my granddaughter.

I cut a lot of the scraps of muslin left over from the backing on the tree skirt into blocks.

Well, I marked and cut the smaller pieces into two or one inch squares. (The larger scraps are still waiting to see what I will need on a new project).

The Celebrate Hand Quilting facebook is in the midst of a "9-patch quilt adventure" and I guess there might be a way to use the challenge to get rid of the excess pieces in those two tins. The only  other alternative would be to get new tins.
Anyway, this can be a good no-brainer take-along project until I get my act together.

Waking in the middle of the night, I recalled another project that is nearing a deadline.

I promise my graduating Webelo Scouts each year, that if they make "Eagle"in the future, they should let me know and I would carve them an eagle neckerchief slide.

Most of those scouts are here in Japan for only three or four years, then move to another country or back to the states. I think scouting is a good way to make friends and keep connected and my promise has been a great way to keep in touch and celebrate their achievements.

I wish I had kept a list all these years of how many eagles have flown across the sea. Matthew, who earned this one will have his Court of Honor next month. He left here long ago, still a cub scout. His father was my Pack committee chairman. It is always hard to think of these boys, all grown up and heading off into the big world because they remain in my mind as they were when they left.

Once, while at a training session at Philmont, in the states, a young man came up to me and said, "Mrs. Fukuda, don't you remember me? I am Kevin Blake." Indeed, I did remember Kevin, but in my mind he was still little cub scout with a squeaky voice, coming up to my shoulder.... Not a six-foot something young man.  Would I know Matthew if I should see him today? Maybe not, but it has been a joy to share a small part of his life.

Time to get out the sandpaper and sharp tools, cut those feathers, and add the paint. Time does not stop for the sniffles.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

The camera speaks!

My camera seems to be enjoying it's elevated position from case to handbag. Suddenly it is calling out to me as I pass a world of beauty.

When nighttime temperatures dropped to a new low, the Japanese Maples  turned on the red button.

 Wednesday I met with my friend, Shigeko for a day of beauty.

We went to the Nezu Museum ...
No pictures of the exhibits ... and viewed ancient treasures in the form of scrolls telling old stories.

Some were mounted on folding screens and many of those tales I have viewed as Kabuki plays.

There were some scrolls where the pictures were so tiny and detailed, it seems they must have been painted with a brush with only one hair!
The title of the exhibit is "Pictured Tales: From Courtly Narratives to Medieval Short Stories".

After viewing the main exhibit, we visited the other
Galleries seeing ancient Chinese Bronzes, Buddhist art, fan-shaped paintings, and tea ceremony implements.

Then, as if that was not enough walking, we went out to enjoy the beautiful garden attached to the museum.

The sky was a beautiful blue and the trees have reached their prime in color.

There were paths going in all directions and we needed to make a choice  ... left or right or straight ...every few steps.

The garden was also a show place of art with sculptures and lanterns well placed at every turn.

This stone fellow seems to be contemplating the beauty around him.

And how inviting is that path leading upward?

Those trails were almost like a maze.

High above in the trees, the Hiyodori (Brown-eared Bulbul) were calling out as they enjoyed the scene.

The black pines were wrapped with belly-bands in preparation for winter.

As I understand it, the insects winter in the straw bands rather than burrowing into the tree bark and the straw can then be burned in the spring.

I don't know if black pines are in great danger from insects, but the red pines are suffering greatly from pine blight carried from tree to tree by the pine-bark beetle.

It was a wonderful treat from my friend to enjoy all this and as we left, we noted the next exhibit will begin January 9th.

"Pine, Bamboo, and Plum: Auspicious Designs in Celebration of the New Year."

These little straw decorations along the garden path represent plum (can you see the shape of the flower in the twisted straw rope?) and the other might be pine or bamboo.

They seem to be saying, "Come back in the New Year to our show".

And Tuesday night, I grabbed this picture of the tree skirt on the floor at church.  When I returned home, I added the ties along the open edge and at this moment it is winging its way to Oregon.

I had to chuckle about a week or two ago when Quilt Inspiration (Check them out ) posted a terrific selection of tree skirt patterns. A little late for my use ... I had to come up with a pattern of my own .. but had I seen them, I would have had a hard time deciding on just one.

Now it is on to my Christmas presents (the tree skirt was actually a birthday present requested in February). Nothing like a deadline or two to keep me moving.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Looking with new eyes.

Years ago, I was contacted by a Scouting friend. He had a friend who had a newly adopted grandson from Russia and was looking for a way to interest that boy in reading. The boy had read a book about "Flat Stanley" and she was looking for others who would participate in a visit from one sent by this boy.

Having been a non-reader as a child, I was eager to help and before long, Stanley arrived in a post.

That began a year of adventure. Suddenly I was seeing things all around me that I had hardly noticed before. The camera and Stanley went with me daily. We saw all kinds of things  ... some ordinary and some unusual ... and took lots of pictures. Each week we sent off letters and pictures to Ivan, telling him of our adventures.

A year or two later I had a second visit from Stanley. Since Ivan was a Scout and it was scouting through which I had met him, I took Stanley with me to the National Jamboree. Here in the picture is the up-dated Stanley enjoying a display of patches. I think he was happy to see a patch from Russia.

The thing that made me recall the adventures with Stanley was a post from one of my blogging friends.  JoAnn at Scene through my eyes always has wonderful photos of all kinds of things.
Recently she posted a scavenger hunt of random and beautiful pictures that illustrated items on the list for the month of November. I checked out the list of words for December and wondered how difficult it would be to join the challenge.

Last night I carried my camera as I went to choir practice, thinking of some of the words on the list. I was surprised how many I could spot on just one trip. Perhaps carrying a camera is part of it. Taniwa, always seems to have a camera with her and posts wonderful pictures.

Maybe like the days with Stanley, I can see things in a new way. For now, I still need to figure out how to store and organise my pictures on this new-fangled laptop.

And now new decisions in the tree skirt.
I quilted trees into the kite-shaped points but they really don't show and I wonder if I am just wasting my time.

I had thought of quilting bells inside some of those inner shapes but am now beginning to reconsider.

Perhaps just straight lines about an inch inside the seams would be just as effective.

What do you think?

I bought green binding for the edges.

Well, I'm off to the sewing group today.
Maybe they will have a few suggestions.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Signs of the times

Have you ever thought of crows as something dangerous?

A friend was once walking through the park on her way to school and saw what appeared to be an injured bird on the ground.

As she went closer, it seemed to be a fledgling crow.

Suddenly she was attacked by the little bird's parents, dive bombing to peck her on the head.

Even as she ran away, the crows followed her all the way to school in constant attack.

Here is another sign of caution in a park.

It is only a warning ... no advice of what to do should you get attacked.

And here is a blurry picture of the culprit ...

A Japanese Jungle crow.

Actually we also have Carrion crows, the difference being flatter foreheads and thinner beaks.

These guys are not only dangerous, they are very smart and quick to take advantage of clueless humans.

Once while camping, I saw a crow flying over the campsite carrying a small shopping bag.

What was in the bag? The ingredients of the Scout's planned dinner. (removed from the top compartment of the backpack. And, that is not the only time it has happened on a camping trip.

When we lived in Suginami-ku, the trash collection area had a green net that was to be spread over the waiting trash. One could hear the crows discussing the possibilities from early in the morning and sure enough,  every morning on collection days, they managed to pull out the smaller lighter bags or those that had not been tucked well under the net and spread it all up and down the street.

When I recently visited the old neighbourhood, I saw they had given up the net and substituted a folding mesh bin.

This opens into an oblong bin with a drop lid on top.

The biggest problem was apartment dwellers, probably dropping off their garbage on their way out to work. Not only were those bags too light to hold the net, but easy for the crows to carry off.
In the end, it was the homes that were at the collection site that had the questionable pleasure of sweeping up the scattered trash.
After doing my duty twice a week for many years, I had to smile when I saw the up-grade.

One of my friends complained that the city has a crow problem ... well. in my estimation, it is a people problem. Our current neighbourhood still uses the big net but people around here are much more careful about keeping the net well tucked over the pile.

And here is another sign.

I wonder what this one indicates.

Is the building behind a school?
Not the one where I work.

Maybe if I follow that arrow I will find my home.

There is not a lot to show on the quilting front. The snowflakes are just about all quilted.
I am hoping I can get to the border before long.

As I work, I am contemplating what to quilt in the segments of the star. (I already quilted along the seams) I have ideas for that kite-shape but have yet to try them out. With the Christmas prints, the quilting may not show anyway. Once I begin I don't want to have to take any of it out. Hopefully a picture will follow before long.  The door hanging for my second daughter .... well ... not yet begun.
Where does all the time go? Crows got it?

Friday, November 27, 2015

Holiday stuff

Finally a bit of progress is being made on the Christmas tree skirt.

Unless I am making something as small as a table runner, I run into a big problem finding a space large enough to put the top and backing sandwich together.
Any space I can find on our floor is both too small and covered in dog hair.

Thursday I thought of going to church early and use the time before choir practice to assemble the parts on the floor of the fellowship hall as I did with Ben's quilt.

Then I heard my husband complaining to one of our kids over the phone that since one apartment attached to our house is vacant, we were short of money for the past two months.

Ahah! That is the bad part. The good part is ... there was a nice clean floor space large enough for spreading out the top. I grabbed the key and went over.
Yesterday was grey and rainy and cold but there was enough light from the window to lay out the top and piece enough of the donated batting scraps together. I am not familiar with the various donated battings but I found enough of one kind that seemed suitable and whipped the joints together to fit the shape I needed.

I then decided to baste the top to the batting and I am glad I did. There was just enough light to finish up and it made things much easier when I added the backing this morning. Here it is, spread out in the sunny room ... a little contrasty for a good photo but fastened securely with safety pins.

After trimming the edges, I carried it up to the loft where the light was not so bright to see if I could get a better shot.

Since the ceiling is low, I couldn't get the camera back far enough to fit it all in but I think you can get the idea.

I have decided to quilt the whole thing as one and then cut the opening and the center out and put on the binding.

Right now I am quilting in the ditch around the star pieces. I plan to quilt outside the snowflakes and add a design in each of the star pieces ... maybe a holly leaf or tree shape. I am just so glad to have this moving along and I think I can finish up and get it into the mail in time. (I had really hoped to mail it along with Ben's quilt but I waited too long for the snowflakes to fall).

Looking out the apartment window yesterday, I noticed our Biwa (Loquat) full of flowers on every branch, so today I took my camera over for a shot.

This tree came in a pot from our last house. I had set the pot on a dirt strip between the neighbor's house to the south, and the low blocks where our own wall used to be. (Seeing no point on two walls six inches or so apart, we had removed our wall when our house was rebuilt, the space filled with dirt).

Well, the pot had fallen on its side but the tree took over, finally splitting the pot and sending roots through the bottom. By now the tree is about 10 or 12 feet tall and though I keep trimming it so it will not bother the neighbor, it carries on with gay abandon. By late spring all these branches will be covered in fruit. I guess I need to start looking for recipes that use Biwa.

Our own Labor Thanksgiving day was on Monday, but that was a working day for me. Since today is Thursday in the States, and the Oregon gang was gathered together to celebrate, we had a wonderful skype call ... the Japan bunch and the Oregon bunch together. Not as good as some of my blogging friends in the states might have had in person, but for us, a great treat. Hopefully there will be time for a turkey at Christmas. Holiday Blessings to you all.

Monday, November 23, 2015

My other life

 Not much quilting done this past weekend.

Our Cub Pack joined a district event and turned the weekend into a family camping occasion.

Rain had been predicted since last week BUT ... I do not camp in the rain and ordered SUN.
Of course, that's what we got.

While the boys tried their skills at a "shooting sports day", (darts, slingshots, b b guns, blow guns, and who knows what else) I was busy training leaders in outdoor skills.

This persimmon tree was full of fruit this year and greeted the trainees outside our classroom.

These are great to look at but probably the most puckery of any I have ever tasted. Even the birds seemed to be staying away.

Our pack gathered on "Fukuda Field" for the flag raising and opening ceremony.

Here is a picture of the best pack in Tokyo. Nikko and I are behind the camera along with three other adults

What I didn't know was that I was to be presented with an award. That was the best kept secret.

The award consisted of a medal and a framed certificate.

The "Centurion Award" does not mean I have been doing Scouting for a century ... or that I have reached the age of 100, though sometimes it may seem that way ...

With the Order of the Arrow (Scouting's Honour  Society) celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, a few members in each section were selected for this prestigious honour.

I was asked on the spot to give a speech. Oh horrors! Surprise awards come with challenges.

When the events ended, we set up our tents in the nice dry flat field and cooked foil dinners.

We were entertained by the cubs who had prepared skits, songs and even magic tricks.

The cubs made a large pan of brownies which we baked in a cardboard box. It turned out yummy and was decorated with candles to celebrate one of the cub's birthday.

Of course there were the marshmallows and poking in the fire ... a good night's sleep and breakfast before taking down the tents and packing up the gear. I think everyone had a good time and I was pleased with how cooperative and helpful the boys were. They are all looking forward to another campout in the spring.

Today is quite cold and the rain is making up for lost time. It is the Japanese "Labor Thanksgiving" and a national holiday. Our school was in session as were other international schools but many were off work and quite a few children were brought to school by Dads.  The best part of the holiday was that the usual sardine can of a train (where one is lucky to be standing above one's feet) had enough open seats that I could actually sit all the way to my station both going and coming home.

Friday evening I was able to put more stitches into the Christmas tree skirt and I think it will be ready to baste and begin quilting tomorrow.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Shichigosan ... an excuse for family time

After listening to the rain all night long and leaving in the morning for choir with my newly embroidered umbrella, I was so very happy to see the sun peeking out in the afternoon.

Each November, Girls three and seven and boys age five get dressed in fancy clothing and go to a shrine for a blessing. For one small girl, Leia was very well represented with both sets of grandparents and my sister-in-law in attendance.

The location of choice was Omiya Hachiman, in the neighborhood where we once lived. It brought back many memories of festivals visited, the wonderful nature of the adjoining park, and the countless Jungle Crows hoping for a dropped treat.

The "Hamaya" is an arrow given by the shrine to kill any evil that may enter your home. These are often presented at various holidays. Leia's hair ornaments were those worn many years ago by my four daughters

It was a pleasant visit with all the family, followed by a grand meal at a local shop owned by a favorite chef who had moved up in the neighborhood from baking other shop's pizzas to owning his own very popular restaurant.

Don't we all look festive ... wearing corsages and lined up for a photo. I was surprised to find Norie wearing a gown I had once had made from kimono fabric. (a great alternative to be encased in a kimono and unable to breathe). The next big occasion for getting all gussied up in kimono will be on coming-of-age day ... age 20 and still a ways off.