Wednesday, December 28, 2011

New Years Traditions

Japan is a land of traditions. The language is full of double meanings and rather than making puns into jokes, they are embraced in the ways holidays are expressed. Of all the holidays, New Years seems to get the largest dose of tradition.

These are shown in the door decoration. Over the past 50 years, the decorations have become more commercially made, sold all assembled and wrapped in plastic, ready to hang . I would guess that most of the younger generation would not know how or what (or even why) these decorations are made.

Each little item in the arrangement has a meaning and the decoration itself seems to have a lot of Shinto or Buddhist background.

I find it interesting that my husband, a third generation Christian, is particular about putting out the decorations by the "right" day, or for that matter, taking them down on the "right" day.

Often I think of how poorly Christianity has been accepted by the Japanese and wonder if some of that reason might be that they feel they must throw out all the traditions, many of which have Buddhist or Shinto roots.

My little granddaughter celebrated her "Shichi-go-san" by donning a kimono and being blessed at a temple. Where does religion leave off and tradition take over?

The Meiji Shrine at the end of the decorated boulevard, in my last post, will be crammed with people on midnight December 31st, waiting to rush in at the stroke of 12 and toss a few yen onto the conveyor belt, cap their hands and write their wishes to be left behind or buy a fortune paper (which will be left tied to a tree branch if it isn't positive). The atmosphere will be one of frenzy but hardly with a feeling of much more than tradition fulfilled.

As for me, it is nice to spend some quiet days, curled up under a warm quilt while I work on quilting the small blocks.
Once I have those done, I will figure out how to do the large ones.
I am quilting the border flowers with colored thread to match the flower centers. I am happy to be using my Aurifil thread which I received from Mme Samm.
No Scouts this week. No Choir practice this week. Leftovers in the fridge and lots of happy quilting. Seems like a good way to end the year.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Waiting for the dust to settle and the quilting to begin

December 22nd

While the rest of the world prepared for the holidays, My Cub Scouts took advantage of the school break to visit the ANA repair facility at Haneda airport. We may have a few future engineers in the group or perhaps a pilot or two.

The hardest part was, "Don't run", "Don't touch",
and "Keep in line".

December 23, the Emperor's birthday, we celebrate with the Japanese Scout Association by pounding mochi.

The Japanese Scouts prepared an introduction in English.

After the official opening ceremony, the SAJ Beaver Cubs showed the BSA Cubs how the rice is made into mochi, giving the names of all the things used.

Our Boys were allowed to pound the rice as much as they liked. The leader on the right turns the rice between pounds so it will come out in a smooth even paste-like lump.

The first boy to pound is already seen on the left eating the mochi smothered in bean jam.

Even this old leader got to take a few whacks. There is a variety of sizes and weights of mallets but this one was very heavy.

Some of the cubs, after trying the light ones, came back and asked to pound again with the heaviest ones. Perhaps I should have asked too try the kid version.

With the evening , came daughter #3 and her able-bodied assistant, ready to put up "the tree".

All the stuff for assorted holidays lives in a tiny cupboard under the eaves next to my sleeping mat. This cupboard has two doors that lift out because they are made to fit a strangely shaped opening. The mat is rolled up and the needed items are extracted. The most difficult part is getting those doors back in place at the end. (shortest time is probably 20 minutes so we had better get everything we need out and the boxes back in before we mess with putting that door back in place)

The assistant followed me around the tree while we put on the lights. Then each little trinket came out, was admired or commented on and hung.

One more box and we will be done.

There! Done!

Nikko is checking to make sure nothing has fallen to the floor.

December 24th.

Our church is located on Omotesando, in Harajuku. This road leads to the entrance to the Meiji Shrine and is one of the fanciest shopping areas in Tokyo.

(Our building has Louis Vuitton on one side and Armani on the other)

The Zelkova trees line both sides of the streets and during the holidays are lit each evening, bringing out hoards of shoppers and sight-seers.

It was just getting dark as I arrived for choir and the streets between the station and church were crammed with young couples and families. Everyone was trying to get pictures with the lights in the background.

After singing two services, the trees were still bright against the darkened sky.

Though I had hoped to hurry home by train, the ticket machine ate the last of my money. I wasted time at the ticket office trying to get it back, but, in the end, I had to walk to the connecting train (about 45 minutes away).

By the time I could stumble up to bed, it was well into December 25th and not a great deal had been accomplished.

A worship service involving the choir right in the middle of Christmas day (plus an hour travel each way) meant a lot of rush, rush, rush. Getting a turkey into the oven in a timely fashion was impossible. Trying to jockey pies and potatoes and other stuff around the turkey was a challenge. Counter space is a piece of plywood over the sink. (Washing up done in installments)

Someone may have taken photos of food and family. I never got near a camera the whole day. Before going to bed, the remains of the turkey had to be dealt with and dishes washed and put away. It was well after midnight when I could turn in.... and today, as every Monday, we had to get up at 3:30 am for onigiri delivery to the homeless.

Now the turkey bones are simmering on the stove and we will begin to enjoy the best part, Peace and quiet and leftovers.... and maybe just a wee bit of quilting.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Nikko picks a winner! (or three)

Ok! It is time for my assistant Nikko to pick the Blog Hop Party winners. Here is a dog that will work for cheese. I have never felt so snoopervised in my life! She comes to attention when I opened the fridge. Out comes the cheese. First we take the slices and cut them into little squares. Then we get a marking pen and begin to write numbers on the bits. (If you ever want to try this method, forget it. Markers do not write on cheese after the first three or four).

Plan "B", pull out some little sticky dots and write the numbers on those. (After cheese, paper is another favourite diet item). Stick those stickers in the middle of each bit. "Good dog, Nikko, you are paying such good attention"!

Next, arrange the pieces on a bamboo tray and spin the tray. With 96 pieces, they are pretty close together. Nikko may get three in one bite. That would be fine because I could take those out of her mouth and look at the numbers. But, if she only takes two... then three on the next bite...I will be in trouble because I only have three prizes.

But, never fear, Nikko has a brilliant idea. "What if I eat them all but three? I will choose the winners by elimination". Only a very greedy dog would come up with this idea but she is getting a bit eager to begin. OK, Nikko, "Itadakimasu"!

Hey, what's this, Nikko races to the back side to begin, putting herself between me and the tray.

How daintily she selects those yummy bits!

Working her way and turning the tray... "You are almost there ..."

"Stop", "Wait"!

"I need to write down those numbers before you go any further".

Here they are!




"Nikko, what's with the ones" Now I go back to the computer and start counting. There must be a way to put numbers on these comments. Every time I count I get messed up! Well, #1 is easy. That is Cherry Red Quilter http://cherryredquilter.blogspot.comand she would like the dragon. Next is #51. Count again, then one more time. That is Hilachas She would like the Matoi. So far, so good! #71 is the last number. That is Quiltaholic She would like the cat panel. "Wow, Nikko, I couldn't have done such a good job myself"! This is such hard work! I need all the help I can get.

As soon as I have some addresses, Nikko and I will jog off to the Post Office and send the panels on their way. Many thanks to all my blogging buddies. I wish you all the best for the holidays and New Year.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Postman cometh

When we were designing our house, it was my idea to set the post box in the entry-way wall rather than the usual location of in the gatepost. How nice it is to be able to get the morning mail without going outside, especially on a cold or rainy day.

This morning, however, my husband went out to find the little stone lantern pushed over, the stone lamp part smashed and the top two stones lying in the flowerpots. The largest of the pots was also broken into many pieces and spider lily leaves were crushed and broken, their roots all exposed.

Well, out came the glue drawer and now everything is mended and back together. We are wondering who did this and why. Certainly it was not the paper delivery person. In the morning when the dog was taken out it was fine. Certainly it was not the mail man. He just came after it was all cleaned up. Who else shoves fliers by the hundreds into our post? Maybe I need to look at what fliers have come so far today. People are paid a small fee to go around the streets stuffing fliers in people's boxes. They are never something you are interested in and I keep a recycle bin under the apartment mail boxes for the convenience of the renters.

Only one flier in the post. Domino's Pizza! Could the deliverer of that flier have been the person? Or is there someone in the neighbourhood with an attitude? I have found the pot with the Christmas cactus kicked over several times last week and someone removed the top rock from the lantern and tossed it into the flower bed but smashing things is going a bit too far. Just in case, I moved a few of the pots to another location to make it easier to reach the post.

Then.... The bell rang! It was the postman with things too big to fit in the slot!

Can I talk about "winnings"?

How can this be? I never win, well, not up until this year. Once the newspaper had a contest to win a book and since I really wanted that book, I wrote my response in rhyme. I got the book! Earlier this year I got some lovely fabric from Quilt Inspiration

Maybe my luck was beginning to change...

Here you see it! a big red package from Madame Samm , a big box from Jan-Maree Ball, and an envelope from Marjorie Rich

And what was inside? Oh, the wonderful set of Aurifil threads that I have been reading about and wanting to try. But, then she threw in so many other wonderful items! Needles and a rotary cutter and even fabric that I have never seen before. Oh My! Thank you, thank you!

And what was in the box?

Two, count them, 2, beautifully wrapped Christmas presents! And two chocolate Koala bears. Since those are not wrapped, can I eat one?

I guess I will be forced to put up my tree and tuck those presents underneath. The red package is soft and lumpy and the blue one is smooth and firm. Hmmm. Do I really have to wait until Christmas?

Last but not least, that flat-looking envelope contained all of this beautiful batik!

I shall have to hurry and finish quilting the batik quilt so that I can begin another. Won't these pieces look yummy? I have an idea just waiting to get out.

Oh THANK YOU my quilting blogger friends for making me feel like such a winner! You have more than made my day and love you all!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Tokyo lights and handwork

Clear skies and a full moon, plus a lunar eclipse thrown in for good measure!

I was interested to read two posts by my blogging friends. The first was by Linda on Eat,Sleep,Quilt, who shared pictures of a beautiful light show she had visited.
She commented on how difficult it is to take pictures of lights at night.

I could second that! When I went to my Pack meeting at the Tokyo American Club, the moon was just rising behind the Tokyo tower. I hurried up to the top floor to see if I could get a picture of the tower and moon without a thousand electrical wires in between. No wires, and the view was great but the lighting on the tower even without a flash is a bit overdone. Then, as I was leaving after the Pack meeting, the lighting had changed so without going back to the roof, I took another shot.

The Tokyo Tower has been a great landmark for many years. Soon it will be replaced in size, if not importance, by a much taller tower called "Sky Tree".

Both have observation decks where you can get a good 360 degree view of Tokyo and it's surroundings, including Mt. Fuji on a clear day.

On the night of a full moon, we were also blessed with a total eclipse. If you would like to peek at that, you will have to check out Taniwa, the second blog that caught my attention. She and her camera stayed up later than I was able. (Sunday morning comes early, for one thing, and the night was way to cold to be out looking at the moon ... or the earth's shadow). She also commented on taking photographs at night.

With a continuous run of Scouting events in the city, I have added to the growing pile of + and x blocks.

They now total 113, still not enough but getting closer to quilt size.

Here they are piled out on the "ironing board" which lives on top of the dog kennel. I wonder where I would put it if I didn't have a dog kennel.

The train is only crowded in the mornings so I can usually sit on the trip into town. If I sit I can do some piecing. If I stand, I have a book to read.

The trains have "Silver seats" at one end of each car. Those are intended for the elderly, the handicapped, or pregnant women. In truth, they go to those who can shove into the train and grab a seat the fastest. Then, once you are sitting, you a.) sleep b.) read a comic book c.) put on make-up or d,)text on your keitai (cell phone). The cell phone is supposed to be turned off in the area of silver seats and there are signs on every side wall, window, and hand-grip with a picture of a cell phone and a red line across it and the word "OFF", which must not be one of the words taught in English classes. Of course, any of the above activities prevent you from seeing those old people or the guy on crutches or that very pregnant woman clinging to the swaying strap.

Last week I was sitting across from a young father and son about 9 or 10. The boy asked his father if it was really OK to sit in the "Silver seats" because he had been taught at school that those seats were not to be used by kids. The father muttered something like "don't let it bother you" and shut his eyes so he didn't have to look at who might be standing.

Evening trains are all crammed just like rush hour in the mornings. I did find out that there is more chance to get a seat if I go to the front of the train. Thus, I had a very productive week. Now I will have to mark and cut more pieces for next weeks trips. I had set a goal of 140 blocks but I am beginning to think 182 might make a bigger quilt with maybe a five inch border to hold it all together. Marking and cutting all those pieces is not much fun but I enjoy having something to make the train ride and meetings go faster.

I think you can check out those two blogs by going to the side bar. I will try to add a link but I've gotta run out for dog food before the shop closes. Today is "wan wan" (11) day and I get extra points. (Japanese dogs say wan wan instead of bow wow) There are also extra points on "nya nya" day (22) as Japanese cats say nya nya.

Now you know more than you ever wanted to know ... I have been told I am a vast storehouse of useless information!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Blog Hop Party ... can I really do this?

Well, I wrote down all the instructions but trying to follow them is whole new ball of wax.

Here are the panels I have selected to give-away to three of my visitors on December 17.

Each is printed on cotton, about 50cm x 113cm. The first one is a "matoi"

showing the standard and happy coat of firefighters during the Edo period.

The second is a Beckoning Cat or Welcoming Cat. The upper cat welcomes in Good luck and the lower one, wealth.

The third, I selected because next year is "the year of the Dragon" according to the oriental zodiac.

I have enjoyed a year of meeting blogging quilters even though I am challenged technically. If any of these panels meets your fancy, let me know which you would like. If not, enjoy the Hop!

Blog Hop Party with Give-Aways

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Native Art

After showing you my button blanket, and explaining a little about the Order of the Arrow, I thought you might enjoy seeing a bit more quilt-related regalia.

This blue item is a "medicine pouch".
My owl and turtle make up the design and this is quilted without batting.

The silver ornaments commemorate the three stages of membership as I passed through Ordeal, Brotherhood and Vigil. Each bead added to the thong represents events such as fellowships, conclaves, NOAC (National OA Conference) and Jamborees.

As with all OA Lodges, we use Native American regalia for our ceremonies. For many years, our lodge had a hodge-podge of mixed regalia as members came and went from different parts of the States using different native traditions.

Finally, about six years ago, we decided to switch to something more Japanese (after all, we are in Japan) and began creating regalia based on Ainu traditions. With a number of workshops, we made perhaps six or so kimono with Ainu inspired designs. They have turned out more user-friendly. (After all, we are talking about teen-age youth). They fold up nicely for transport and storage and after years of dealing with feather headdresses worn in the rain or too near the fire, I am happy with lower maintenance and the one-size-fits-all aspects.

This short jacket is my own piece. I have been known to wear it for other than OA functions. The applique is in the Ainu style.

If you see something peeking on the inside, it is my owl.

The design is not Ainu but North Western. The Ainu use the owl in their designs as well.

I recently went to an exhibition of Ainu art that had many owl representations.

This is the front of the reverse side.

The applique is a native design from my own Ohio woodland tradition.

Here are a few pictures from around our house. The neighbor has this Pyracantha hanging in front. Won't the birds love that all winter!

In the late summer, a very colorful and spiky caterpillar attacked my Toad lilly. I thought I had seen the end of it for the year but it has bravely come back to hold it's place in my tiny garden.

About ten years ago, I rescued these plants from a lot where the house had been removed and it was about to be turned into an asphalt-covered parking lot. I remembered the plants having come up in the front edge every year. When I saw the machinery at work, I hurried home and got a bag and a trowel and dug up as many of the roots as I could locate. Some went home with my daughter and the rest found places around the garden edges. When I moved back to our little house, I divided the roots again and brought some with me to enjoy here. This is a plant that grows well in shade and these flowers beneath my dining room window will last to the end of December.