Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Good day to be inside quilting

This is the view I awoke to from my third floor greenhouse window. Luckily for my orchid, there was a warning and it came inside the night before. The back garden was getting decorated too.

In the foreground, the bamboo stalk from the South side of the house ... at least five meters of it ... is bent to kiss the walkway.

And along the front to the West, the plum tree, planted for out first daughter, which should have been blooming from the 15th, and the Sweet Daphne, which always opens for our third daughter's birthday on the 28th,

are under a blanket of wet snow.

Yesterday's quilting session got a lot of fine work done. Even out least confident quilter made a sizable contribution, gazing at the underside after each row and wondering if her stitches were perfect enough.

Now the quilt is back on my hoop. I need to finish up the center areas and make sure all the borders are marked for next week's activity. There are four rows of chimes. Today I completed the third row to the side borders and am now chugging along on the bottom row.

Indeed, this is a good activity for a snowy day. And those flowers that are under the snow? Well, those two daughters picked their own time to be born regardless of what the doctor said so why should their flowers not do the same?

Friday, February 24, 2012

Where did the week go?

How did it get to be Saturday already? I have no business posting anything, as I have not responded to a single comment during the past week. I haven't been exactly twiddling my thumbs, however. With only four weeks to go, the auction quilt calls.

The wind chimes got in-the-ditch quilting last week. Our plan is to turn the background into a raked gravel garden. At the end of the session we pinned some paper "rocks" in rather empty spots and this week I have been raking the gravel around them. I tried to get a look at the effect by spreading it out on the loft bed but the quilt is much too big to get the total effect on a double bed. I need to have quilting lines marked for the worker-bees on Tuesday and as much of the center areas done so that they can work around the edges. At the same time, I hate to do too much without first checking in with the committee.

This is where living in Tokyo has its "cons". Just as the Scouting group or church group, we are part of a community but we are scattered all over the city. No one is even on the same train line and even if you could get there by car, there is no place to park.

Today our Pack committee had a conference call to sort things out but this would not work very well with quilt designs. My choice is to wait until Tuesday (and possibly get behind) or plug along and hope for the best which is probably what I will do).

Does this look like a Japanese garden to you? (Don't answer that if you need a reply ...)

Gone quilting!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

A few minutes of fame (depending on how fast you read)

This morning's issue of the Japan Times had an article about me written by Kris Kosaka. Perhaps it makes me appear a bit more worthy than I truly am. My kids were cheering me on through0ut the day and a dear friend sent me the best picture of all ... her young son reading the article.

Remember that behind every bit of this piece are countless leaders and volunteers, helping and inspiring. And that includes my blogging friends!

Here is a link to the article.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Some things might be worth the wait

This year's Auction quilt has been in progress for some time. Back in the fall, when we began, I found it hard to get excited over a quilt that was basically a copy of another quilter's work. Within a few weeks we had gained permission from the Sensei to use her design for inspiration. Then there was a turning point where the picture of her quilt was put away and we began doing our own thing. This week the borders were put in place and we met to do the basting. Luckily, the Early Learning Center could give us space for the task and tables so we didn't have to crawl around on the floor.

An eager group of moms made quick work of the task at hand, removing threads and cat hair and getting down to the basting. Now the quilt is in my care. We have four weeks to complete the quilting. The wind-chimes and cross strips will get in-the-ditch quilting and for the background we plan an echo-style quilting to resemble a Japanese style raked gravel garden.

We have a wonderful group of worker bees ready and eager. We have added our own combination of fabrics and colors and I think the quilting will be distinctive too. Our first "panic point" was the permission. With some luck and some hard work, it will be finished early enough too hang at the School for a few days before the Gala, avoiding further panic.

And today is the birthday of the canine daughter. Ten years ago in May, I received a phone call from my kids who had gone to Nikko for the day. "Mom, we found this darling puppy abandoned outside the community center". (Me) "I don't want a dog"! "But Mom, you just have to see it to believe what a darling dog it is". (Me) "I can't see it over the phone and I don't want a dog"!

So ... what did they do? They put her in a box and brought her home for me to see. "If you don't like her, I'll take her back", says my #4 daughter. Yeah right! And throw her back on the road! Oh, that poor animal, skinny and caked in dirt! Into the bathroom she went. After several washings she turned out to be white. Sitting on the rug by the garden window with the last of the afternoon sun drying her sparkling fur, someone says,"she needs a name". Since she was found in Nikko and the characters for Nikko are "sun" and "shine", it didn't take long to pick a name. Name it ... and it is yours!
A visit to the vet for puppy shots told us she was about three months old. Counting backwards, that was Valentine's day. Ten years ago! I can't believe someone would abandon this dog on the road. She isn't perfect. She has issues from time to time, but a sweeter, more gentle dog would be hard to find. She faces each day with enthusiasm and loves everyone.

My husband loves to take her shopping and when he comes out of the store finds her surrounded by a fan club, getting affection and praise.

Of course, those fans don't have to worry about tons of white hair covering everything in sight. You have only to look at the first picture following a "shampooch" to see some serious shedding.

So ... Happy Birthday, Nikko. Thanks for ten years of dog hair, crumb pick-up, left-over supervision, and quiet companionship. I guess if I had to choose again, I'd take your quiet non-yappy nature and forgive you for all my stuff you have chewed up.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Scout week is for the birds

Years ago, I began quilting a dragon runner for the bureau in my entry way. Then we moved and the bureau went into storage. The new place has a large coffee table and the "Dragon year" was coming so I thought it might be a good time to finish this runner. Do you think I could find it? It is a complete mystery how anything can hide in a place this small! I found a second panel which has now been re-homed but it took some time to find this creature lurking in a box where it had been shoved to make room for guests.

I had quilted with gold thread around the pattern and at last I began to quilt the waves in the background. I was travelling a long way by train today to meet up with Scouts for a bit of nature study. I should have been able to finish during the train ride ... however ... In the "Silver seats" which are reserved for handicapped, and aged passengers, all but two of the eight seats were taken up by young people (reading, texting, and sleeping). I sat and pulled out my work expecting an hour of progress. The very next stop, two elderly ladies got on. One sat beside me and none of the younger passengers moved. Finally I got up and gave my seat to the other lady. Well, they were probably within a year of my own age but I was in my Scout uniform so I thought I should be setting the example. Next stop, an old man with a cane entered. So much for the example. I am amazed how those young people can manage to sleep, (eyes shut so as not to see those standing), but still jump up and exit when their station arrives.

I took the long way home so the waves are almost done but they could have used that hour trip. I will have to add a border as my coffee table is a lot bigger than the bureau of the earlier plan.

On the wall between my house and the neighbor, I have made a feeder by pounding nails up through a board. Two sides slide down over the wall and I can place apples or oranges on those nails each winter for the birds.

This Mejiro or Japanese White-eye seemed to be saying, "You are going so far to see birds? Whats the matter with right here?"

The group I met in Ueno was made up of Scouts and Cubs and parents from a combination of Tokyo units. We walked up through the park looking at trees, then back down to the pond to check out the birds. There are requirements for identifying "wild animals" in your area but unlike the states where you might see squirrels rabbits, coons, skunks, deer and all kinds of wildlife, in Tokyo, your best bet is birds and the best time is winter when the visiting flocks are in town.

The group was HUGE. I'm glad there are so many kids interested in developing their observation skills. There were at least 30 boys and parents and siblings and leaders doubled the size of the group.

I gave each boy a printout of what we might expect to see and told them how to use the clues to identify the birds. We saw over 20 varieties. The city has not cut back the lotus plants so they were a bit harder to see among the plants. Still, ten was the goal so we did well.

Here is an Eurasian Wigeon.

This was a very aggressive male Shoveler. He was chasing every other male out of the area.

All the while the female scooped up bread crumbs tossed by visitors.

Surprise visit by a turtle. Checking out the sun.

And this immature Black-headed Gull is fetching a ride on a swan boat.

In the trees above the bird-watchers are the people-watchers. There were quite a few bird-watching groups in the area. Many had telescopes and let the kids have a peek. I have a camera with a very good telephoto lens but it is not digital. I have been toying with the idea of getting a digital that can use those lenses. Other than the price, the size and weight are enough to make me wonder if I would use it enough to make it worth buying. Today was a day I wished I had it.

Too bad I didn't get a picture of the real "wild life" ... all those boys! This was a fun way to end Scout week and a group I didn't mind speaking in front of.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Scout Sunday

Scout week begins with Scout Sunday and lasts through Saturday, Scout Sabbath. During this week Scouting will celebrate its 105th anniversary.

When I consider how many times I have raised my hand in the scout sign and pledged to do my duty to God and my country, I felt it was about time I put my body where my mouth is, and volunteered to give the children's message at our two worship services.

This takes a lot of courage on my part because every time I have to speak in front of a group, I want to run as fast as I can in the other direction. "Panic" would be the right word here. In this case, there is nothing like a security blanket. I know I have showed this quilt before but I put it up again because it is very meaningful to me. I felt my friends were there with me offering their support.

I told the kids that the symbol was chosen for several reasons. The three points stand for the three parts of the Scout Oath, duty too God and country, helping other people, and keeping oneself fit in body, mind, and spirit.

Since this is the symbol for North on the mariner's compass, I showed them my compass and how you can figure out all the directions if you know which way is North and how living by the Scout Law, a Scout is able to point the right way in life.

I compared this to the teachings in the Bible and the words of Jesus that show us the path to take and the way to live. All the while, those friends on my quilt were helping me along. When I looked at those children I was reminded of my own kids, two of whom had left me comments while I was sleeping and I had read with such a warm feeling before leaving home. Our children are treasures beyond measure and worth every effort spent in their behalf.

The quilt has signatures from Scouts and Scouters all over the world, I think at least 60 countries and all of the United States.

The emblem is embroidered with a single thread of embroidery cotton.

BSA and The Scout Association of Japan were the most complicated.

The other emblems were selected for their variety.

The center piece is the World Scout Emblem. Quilted around it is "Scouting is a World of Friends".

When I returned home and opened my computer, there was a message from a long-time friend and Scouter. He had written about a picture I had posted on facebook of the NASA Astronaut, Mike Fossum, an Eagle Scout, who had come to Tokyo only a few weeks ago and wanted to meet with Scouts in Tokyo. Many years ago, John Glenn and his crew had come to Tokyo and done the same thing and my friend remembered that ... about Scouts "giving back". My friend is now giving back too and I hope that today I have made a step in that direction as well.

Friday, February 3, 2012


Today is "Setsubun".

Sunday, when I was on my way home from a Cub Scout service project, I noticed this fabric "Oni" in a shop window. Then, on Tuesday, in the same neighbourhood, Amy Katoh's Blue and White shop had a lovely quilted hanging in the window. I didn't have my camera but maybe the decorations will stay up a while and I can get a picture.

Setsubun is not really a holiday but it has come to be applied to the last day of "setsu" called "daikan" ("great cold") or the first day of spring in the ancient solar calendar. I can honestly say that this past week has been very cold so the idea of spring around the corner is quite appealing.

On Setsubun, roasted beans are scattered inside and outside the house chanting "oni wa soto, fuku wa uchi"!

(Out with demons! In with good luck!)

When my kids were little, they said, of course, oniwa (garden) was soto (outside) and fuku was inside, after all, we had a whole house full of Fukudas. These days, along with the little wooden box of beans, you get two oni masks. It is customary for family members to eat the same number of beans as their age. I have not counted the beans but I wonder if two senior citizens eat the right number of beans, there will be enough to throw at the oni.

Another custom is to eat this big rolled sushi (ehomaki) while facing in the lucky direction. This year that is North by northwest.

Papa gets a bite.

Mama gets a bite.

And Nikko eagerly takes part. (with thanks to some samurai who, 450 years ago, ate the same before racing off to and winning some big battle.)

Today was the meeting of my quilt group and a small mystery was solved. I learned that the quilt in the Dome show that was surrounded by crowds with cameras was made by Yamaguchi, Momoe... A famous actress and singer and married to Miura, Tomokazu...also a famous movie star. The quilt was made using her mother's kimono.

I wish I had remembered my camera. My friends are making very creative quilts. As for me, I worked on the conference banner as it is small enough to carry. I quilted the letters but still need to add two more borders. The auction quilt will be ready to begin quilting very soon and if other years are an example, there will be little time for other things once we begin.

Happy Setsubun ... and hurry spring!