Thursday, March 31, 2011


Three weeks ago my bag was packed with things needed for the running of Pack 51's Pinewood Derby that evening. Even before I had a chance to clean up the resulting mess from the quake, news came that trains had been stopped and the event had been cancelled. The following day's Scouting event at St. Mary's School, including Pack 15's Derby, was also soon cancelled but we were told not to worry as we could run our Derby's during the District event on April 2nd. Well, the Japan District staff has fled to Okinawa and all the District events are cancelled or left up in the air. My car has yet to run. So, too, are the cars made by the Cubs in my unit. Our Pack held a rough-cut day in which those with tools brought them to help the boys make basic cuts on their cars. Our Pack does this to help and encourage the boys to make their own cars. We also include an open competition for parents and siblings (and leaders). I tell the dads to make their own cars and race against me... and IF they beat me I'm sure to hear about it for years. Well, the last time I saw my Cubs they were holding some great cars and I was so looking forward to seeing the finished results. My own little car is in derby limbo wondering how fast it might be.

With much more free time I have been working steadily on the wedding quilt ... well now anniversary quilt?... for my friend. Plodding slowly around the border, there is not really much to show. I decided instead to share another piece of my quilting heritage. This quilt pictured here was made by my mother. She also made quilts for each of her grandchildren for their second birthday but this quilt was made specially for me. When my mother told me she wanted to make me a quilt I was allowed to pick the design and the fabric. The design I chose was "Storm at Sea", even as a kid it was one of my favorites. The color??? , blues and greens have always been my favorites so why the heck did I go for pink! I remember as if it were yesterday going to the store and picking out those pink fabrics somehow thinking something like that would make me feel more feminine than the skinny homely kid I saw in the mirror, dressed in hand-me-downs from my bigger and less skinny cousins. The quilt was a very long time in the making, begun in the 50s and probably was quilted by some church group in the early 60s. The blocks are 8 inches and the size is 80 x 87 inches. I might add that it is much used and loved.

With four daughters it is not likely the quilt story will end here and both my sisters are quilters. At age four I began to sew for my dolls so it is never too early to catch the bug. Could the last picture be part of the next generation of quilters? Leia gives it a try just before her third birthday. With this kind of help I might have a picture to post in another week.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Quake + 14 days

After writing the title I began to wonder how long we in Japan will be counting from March 11. Monday morning at 3:30 AM when I drove into town to deliver rice to Shibuya's homeless, I noticed that, except for intersections, all the street lights on Kannana, a main drag, had been turned off. All gas stations were closed and all the 24 hour restaurants were closed. Also many of those "24hr stores" were closed or operating with limited lighting. Walking around the station I found the lighting limited or off all together. Those homeless who meet me had no trouble finding me as they know me by my big white dog. After 17 years I could probably deliver with my eyes shut. Interestingly, the streets were crowded with young people celebrating their graduation ... out all night as is common in Shibuya.

Thursday night was my first venture by train into town since the quake. It is our regular choir practice night and since I am part of a small group doing some special music on Sunday I felt I needed to be there to practice. It would be hard to explain to someone who does not sing, the pure joy of joining one's voice to others in such beautiful music as Shubert's Mass in G or the Miserere from Gregorio Allegri written to the glory of God. I am probably the most grateful of all realizing that many choirs do not accept a woman tenor and for me alto would not be an option.

Travel by train is not as convenient as we are accustomed to. Arriving at the station, the escalators are turned off and lighting is cut to the bare minimum. The train schedules are running on a curtailed schedule but crowding was about as normal, probably because people are not staying out as late due to closed restaurants or long walks. Omotesando, one of the biggest shopping streets and the location of our church was dark with many shops shut early and every other street light turned off. Even the church entry was dark. Yes, there are the hoarders like the man loading six six-packs of 2l. bottles of water into the trunk of his car but for the most part the public is cooperating to save what power they can. When I was a kid, my dad went through the house turning off lights as he went. I have to chuckle as I find myself now doing the same thing.

For this week I took the challenge from Amy's Creative Side One Week One Thing Challenge :: Link Up 7, to assemble the blocks on the batik quilt before all the pins fall out. With more down time I have got it together already but when I spread it out on the park fence I find I am not so happy with the arrangement. I want to add a border as the total size could be a bit larger than the present 80 inches square. That might mean buying fabric as most of my stash is pieces smaller than one meter.

Meanwhile, the magnolias are blooming and some of the camellias look unreal with such a blanket of flowers. It may be cold today but spring is around the corner and music is playing in my brain.

Friday, March 18, 2011

One week after the quake

It has been one week since the earthquake changed the lives of everyone in Japan.
Today was to be my quilt group meeting but at the last minute it was cancelled. It seems so many things have been cancelled or postponed this past week that without my regular schedule it is hard to even tell what day it is. What had been looking like a very tight schedule suddenly loosened up and gave a bit of breathing room.

Today was the day we decided to arrange the quilt blocks for Kimie's quilt. Our neighbor rice store owner graciously offered the use of her large tatami room to lay out the blocks. She even took out a set of toy blocks for my granddaughter to play with while we worked.

The original plan was one large block and four small blocks in a checkerboard fashion. I made extra small blocks from my stash so the quilt could be made bigger for a full size bed and I may frame the blocks with an outer border.

Before we could finish the plan we had to run off leaving the quilt blocks spread out on the floor as we were meeting my husband's sister for lunch. By the time we returned, it was nap time for the little one. She was tucked in bed but someone needed to stay home. The only way to finish was to take a picture of what we had begun, pick it all up and bring it home and play with it some more on the living room floor.

By the time we had it the way we liked it and began to pin it together the baby was awake and on the run. As I was putting in the last few pins another daughter arrived with her daughter. The two little ones needed that space for play. Poor Nikko was told "Off!" and dutifully obeyed but after all, that small space between the sofa and Papa's chair is her favorite spot and with children running around in the rest of the space she reclaimed it for a nap, reminding me that there are any number of blogs out there with cats lying around on quilts in progress.

Only a day and a half remain of Kimie's visit. It will be so sad to take her back to the airport and although she arrived on a fairly empty plane, I fear going back to the states will be a challenge
with the hoards of people leaving. One more day I can cluck with two chicks and two chicklets under my wings.

I do see some quilting time on the horizon. The Pack meeting was cancelled. The pinewood derby was cancelled. the spring camporee was cancelled. OA was cancelled. The district Committee meeting has been cancelled. Internet connections have been spotty at best. Choir practice was cancelled. Even our pack trip to the disaster center has been cancelled. I feel sorry for the kids if all they have left to do is sit at home and watch the gloomy news on the TV. Then again we had a bright sunny day. The Sweet Daphne is perfuming the air. The Magnolias are beginning to open. It is cold but the wind is blowing steadily in the "right" direction and I am blessed with wonderful neighbors, family, and friends.

All around me are stories of the kindness of strangers rising to meet the challenges of the day, setting aside their own trials to help another in need. I'm glad these deeds are being told to balance the drama being run over and over on the TV.

Even Nikko is counting her blessings. She has gotten her piece of the floor back.

Saturday, March 12, 2011


In Japan it is not unusual wherever you go to be met by a welcome or beckoning cat. This first cat raises his left paw beckoning in good fortune and long life. He is actually a large piggy bank and fortune comes to him in small change from pockets or from the bottom of the washing machine.

The printed panel is hoping to be made into a table runner.
The upper cat raises his right paw to beckon good fortune and the lower cat, holding a coin is beckoning in wealth. It is not unusual to see the cat with the coin in stores greeting customers.

Cats are not unlike fabric, tending to multiply in corners.
At the top of my step tansu sits a small part of a collection of cats. Oh yes, there are more. For you see, someone coming by and seeing them thinks, "Oh she collects cats". Then, before you know it, suddenly every visitor brings a cat. Well, I do collect owls but that is another story. I think the cats collect themselves.

The one cat I DID collect is not beckoning money or good fortune. He sat many years in my entryway greeting friends and returning family.
I loved his sweet gentle expression and was glad to see him on every return. The last three years he has sat on the shelf beside my sleeping mat wishing me a good rest or a good morning. I'm sure he did not welcome the earthquake when it came and tossed him down the stairs and I do not welcome the thought of tossing these broken pieces into the trash. How sad to get so attached to objects when the world is filled with people who have nothing. Still.....

And here is another welcoming object. The nanohana or rape flowers are one of the harbingers of spring. Their sunny smiles called out to me as I passed them on the way to Church this morning. They, too, will fade but we can enjoy them and look forward to the spring which they so boldly beckon.

Friday, March 11, 2011

earthquake update

For my blogging friends, I thank you for your expressions of concern. Certainly that is the biggest quake I have ever experienced in my 48 years here. Standing in the open doorway with the crashing sounds of flying objects and rattle of walls and windows, it seemed like a never-ending amusement park ride. (and I don't like that kind of ride)

Trains stopped and many people were stuck. Fifty people sought refuge overnight at the church.
Most of the injuries this distance from the epi-center were caused by falling objects. With many activities cancelled today, there will be plenty of time to clean up. For a city the size of Tokyo we got off fairly easy this time and the TV footage makes us aware of how blessed we are.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

History and pictures of ASIJ auction quilts

For anyone interested in seeing pictures and reading a full history of the ASIJ Gala Auction quilts, one of my friends and co-conspirators has written an informative post with much better pictures and descriptions than I could ever accomplish.
Check it out if you want to know more.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Doll festival

March 3rd is Hina Matsuri or, the doll festival. A double three, five, or seven is an auspicious number. When my children were young we set up a very elaborate display of court dolls. On a five tiered step covered in red fabric were the Prince and Princess dolls at the top, sitting in front of a gold screen with lanterns on either side. Below them sat three Ladies -in-Waiting and below them five Court Musicians. The fourth step down had the Minister of the right and the Minister of the left to each side with tables of "food" set between. The bottom step had two little trees on each side, a citrus and a cherry and all kinds of miniature furniture, palanquins, and the like. Fancier sets may have as many as seven or even nine steps with lots to display.
These were set up a few weeks before the date and taken down soon after the festival. On that day special food is served. When my door bell rang unexpectedly I found my neighbor with a dish of the special sushi she has made and brought to us to enjoy for many years, the first being 1965 when my first daughter was a toddler.
These days I do not have room to set out an entire set of Hina dolls. A few Prince and Princess dolls live in a glass case and a quilted runner on my coffee table will have to do. (You might notice that many dolls are paired to represent these two. On the table are even a prince and princess snake and two old bobble headed people.)
Tonight we will have a special treat with my third daughter and my Granddaughter Leia.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Auction quilt - finished and on display

Wednesday we celebrated the finish and hanging of the 2011 quilt. It will be on display in the stairway of the Early Learning Center until next weeks "Gala".
So, what is the quilt worth? Certainly, in the past, the auction quilts have brought in quite a bit of yen to the American School. When that check is written, however, it is written as a donation to the school and that parent would probably be making a big donation anyway with or without the incentive of a quilt.
Each of the quilts we have made is a one-of-a-kind quilt. Each quilt has had a large cast of characters (I say that with a smile) involved in the planning and making. Sometimes we spend money on fabrics and sometimes we dig into our various stashes. It is usually a combination of both.
It would be difficult to count the hours spent as many blocks went home with someone between sessions and not all the work was done in the group. I would be willing to wager that should all the hours be added up, the planning, the shopping, the marking and cutting, the piecing, and the quilting and finishing, and the price figured at the minimum wage x the total of each person's time, no one could afford this quilt.
Then we get into another aspect of values added. Those most certainly include the dedication of the women themselves, organizing, coming to help, offering a place to meet, giving advice or encouragement, and the warm friendships made here.
I once looked at some quilts on consignment at a quilt shop in the states. I was shocked by how low the asking prices were. I could not even buy the fabric in Japan for what was being asked.
Even if they had been pieced by machine, many were quilted by hand and must have taken months to complete. I think of those quilts often when my husband suggests I sell some of my quilts to pay bills. I think of my grandmother's quilt and my mother's quilt. I would rather give them away to someone who would love and cherish them and skip the meals they might buy.
So ... what is the value of this quilt? I'm certain at the end of the auction it will go home with a new owner. Even with a struggling economy it will be enough to cover the fabric and supplies. It will remain a good reminder of someones time lived in Japan and spent at the American School. What else? We never know.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Nature inspires

Well, the kimono quilt has been delayed by a day so today we will have a bit of a nature lesson. This little bird is a Mejiro, or known in English as a Japanese white-eye. A common garden bird throughout Japan, they are easily attracted in winter with a piece of fruit, apples or tangerine skewered on some nails poking up through a board on my garden wall. The applique was my first attempt, not too accurate, but after a number of appearances in quilts has gotten better. The carved Mejiro came out of a scrap of wood at the summer jamboree with no photo reference. I have made several low relief carvings of Mejiro as gifts but have no pictures.

The Brown-eared bulbul or Hiodori is another resident that loves a taste of fruit on the feeder.

At my former house I put out a glass of juice and these birds drank it to the very bottom every day, perching on the rim and reaching for the last drop.
This group of pictures are carved in low relief and painted with acrylics. Other birds are three Sparrows and an Oriental greenfinch. Only the Bulbul has yet to make it into a quilt.