Friday, November 29, 2013

It's been a long time.....

I think the last time I posted a "Followers" block was back in May. Since then, the owl quilt and summer camp and travels took over. Then Scouting and the church banner were waiting my return, followed closely by the Advent deadline.

Now the pressure is off a bit. The Japanese Thanksgiving was Saturday, and the U.S. one on Thursday. I celebrated is several ways. Sunday dinner included my #3 daughter's family and my husband's sister. It has been several months since we were able to get together.I skipped my birthday this year so this was our first meal together since October. Norie made a yummy meal that was followed up with pumpkin pie ... a favorite any time.

Leia and I spent a lot of time looking for "Wally". The book had been given Leia by one of my friends who is thinning out her own shelves from books her kids have long outgrown.

Thursday, after choir practice, I was invited to that friend's home for another Thanksgiving dinner.
Yes, and another serving of pumpkin pie! Certainly I can count my blessings by the number of friends.

I have also been thinking about my blogging friends and the blocks I have begun to make to remind me of the blessings of that friendship  The next person on my list was Cassandra and I have had plenty of time to look for the fabric I wanted and draft a pattern.

Here is what I came up with. Cassandra loves pink and cherry blossoms. She is a true Christian, thus the cross, and is waiting patiently ... and maybe a bit anxiously, for an adoption to come through of a young girl in Taiwan. I added the border of kanji because of that connection. I had to include the character for good fortune. Cassandra, thank you for your friendship.

Along the street leading to the station, there are more signs of fall. These chrysanthemums are about eight feet tall!

The house next to that has two persimmon trees.

Each is a different variety.

Though many buds remain tightly closed, these pretty Camellia sasanqua have begun to open.

And right outside the entrance to the subway station, there are two red ones in full bloom.

Tomorrow morning at the crack of dawn, I will be off
hiking in Kamakura. My Cub pack is invited each year
by a sister Japanese Pack.

Last year the trail went straight up a high hill. I hope we will take a different trail this year. The say is expected to be fine, cold but sunny.

This has been a busy but fun month and a very good time to be thankful.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

It's in the mail!

OK, Jon, you can peek now. I hope it will reach you in time to enjoy it.

Finally, the little calendar decorations are packed up and headed to the post office. It usually takes me a week to get them all carved and painted and varnished, so this was speed under pressure.

The quilted hanging is 20" x 36". The pockets are about 2.5" x 2" deep. The wooden hangings are cut from Japanese Broad-leaved Magnolia. It is one of the best woods for carving and often used to make wood-block prints so can be purchased cheaply and in a variety of thicknesses and sizes. It isn't the prettiest but since I was going to paint it anyway, that didn't matter.

The hanging loops are paperclips cut in half. I drilled little holes and glued them in place.

The paint is acrylic and takes a number of coats because the first few soak into the wood. I somehow mis-placed my box of paint tubes, and after spending half a day hunting to no avail, ended up going into town and buying the colors I needed in addition to the basic ones I had in my work box. The box may show up among the camp supplies next summer. I have no idea what happened to it after camp.

The varnish is also acrylic (I like being able to wash brushes with soap and water). Each piece took maybe six or so coats. And, when you drop one of those sticky pieces on the floor,... DOG HAIR!
Then you need to wash off the piece and start all over.

It is really fun to make a gift for anyone, but especially my kids, because I know they will use it and enjoy it's uniqueness. I put lots of thought and love into what I make so they are really getting a piece of me that will probably last longer than I will.

Next year I shall remember NOT to wait until the last minute to begin my Christmas gift making.
I have seen a bit of gift-making going on on other blogs too. I wonder how many others out there are rushing to get done. Good luck! 

Friday, November 22, 2013


Don't peek yet, Jon!

All the pieces have been carved and are ready to be sanded and painted. Yes, I nicked my fingers and three or four have blood on them, Well sanding and paint will take care of that. (It is rather amazing that when the doctor tries to get blood for a test, it takes three or four jabs to find any and a tiny little nick with the point of the stencil knife causes a flood)

All my life I have had a problem with numbers. For some reason, I cannot count past ten ... then I run out of fingers. I can't make phone calls because I get the numbers all out of order. The only way I can remember my own number is by the sentence it makes in Japanese. 

When I was in school, we learned about big numbers by adding small ones. At that time, we began with the ones column on the right and added to the left. For some reason I thought all big numbers were written right to left. When the teacher dictated numbers for a math test, I had to wait to hear the whole number before writing it down, and by then she was on the next number. Well, I always flunked those math tests anyway because even two-figure numbers got all mixed up in arrangement.

As a result, I didn't take any math past junior high. When I was accepted at college, I was told that I would have to make up credits missing because of all the college courses I did not take. Thus, every semester, besides the required college courses, I was burdened with taking make-up courses for those classes I had missed in High School, paying for extra credits, and running to those extra classes. 

By the end of my Junior year, I had made up all the classes but MATH. Well, If I couldn't do high school math, how was I ever going to take a college math course and survive? Luckily, I worked each summer at a girl's camp and one of the counselors was a high school math teacher. We worked out a deal that I would do geometry, every-other-problem in the book, and at the end of the summer, I would go in and take all the year's tests. 

At the end of the summer, as I was preparing to take the tests, my father came by as I was sitting at the dining room table, looked over my shoulder and said, "Why are you writing your numbers like that"? "Like what"?, I asked. "From right to left. You should be writing them from left to right". SO, at the ripe old age of nineteen, I am going to have to straighten up and fly right!

Well, I passed the tests and, as a result, I didn't have to make up any more courses during my senior year. . .  but did I ever learn how to do anything with numbers? Not at all. I have no confidence using numbers. Every time I count something I come up with a different number, and I am always re-counting.

OK, so how did I goof up? I bought three packs of hooks, Each pack was supposed to have 12 hooks and eyes. I took two packs and picked out the hooks. Then I took the third pack and took out one hook. That should be twenty five, right? I cut 25 little felt circles and arranged them on the tree and began sewing them on, leaving enough space for the decorations. Then I got out the wooden pieces and began to carve them. At the end of each day I counted what I had done and checked the ones that were left. Yep, twenty five. 

At last, all are carved and ready for sanding and painting. Just to check for size and arrangement, I lay them out on the ironing board... but what is this? One hook left empty! I count the ornaments. Yes, there are twenty five. Then I count the hooks ... and count the hooks again, and again. OOPS! where did that extra hook come from. Then I count the ornaments one more time. Oh no, I didn't make enough. But, how can that be? I count the hooks again. Whew, I  do NOT have too many and will not have to re-sew the hooks, but where is the missing ornament? 

Panic. I can't even remember at this point which one is missing.
But ... Whew, there is is, among the chips. 

No wonder I have come to count things over and over and over again. Sometimes, if you try long enough, you get the results you want. 

On to sanding and painting!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Progress ... indoors and out.

No peeking Jon ... come back in a week!

Yes, I have actually kept myself on task. 

The advent calendar made lots of progress once I got serious. After all, it needs to reach the states by the beginning of December to be much use. 

I really should have started sooner. Have I noted that lesson? We shall see.

Last week I used time at meetings ad on the train to sew those fiddly numbers on to the pockets, line the pockets, and quilt the numbers.

I wasted a lot of time hunting for fabric I "thought" I had left from last year. It was a piney-looking print in a more yellowish green. I finally did find some but it wasn't as much as I had expected. I guess that is good because it may mean I am using up stash faster than I thought.

I went back to the green bin and found a few large pieces of green prints to try. This is the candidate I selected and it looks fine now that the hooks and yellow balls are in place.

I found a dark green star print that tends to fade in the sun but worked well for the backing. Now the binding is all sewed on and I have turned it half way. I think the train ride to choir practice will be just the right amount of time to finish it up. 

The wooden pieces are all cut and I have begun to whittle the details. That is a messy job but the floor is covered in dog hair anyway so I may as well sweep up wood chips at the same time when I clean. This weekend we will have a bit of family time. Our family blog has been filled with wonderful pictures of the west-coast gang and two east-coast siblings. Now it will be our turn for a photo op. (but sometime before then I will have to clear some space to sit) 

I love the toad lilies along my back walk.  They have somehow survived with less sun that they were getting at our last house. These were rescued one day when a house in the neighborhood was torn down. I had been enjoying them along the street for years, and when I saw the bulldozers turning the area into a parking lot, I went home and got my trowel and a bag and went back. I dug along the border where I knew those roots were, and ssure enough, was able to rescue a good bit... some of which went off to my daughter's house. I suppose even a dark garden is better than rocks and gravel.

The Biwi tree is full of promise in the bud.

Last year there were several bud clusters but this year almost every limb has a bug clump.

This tree is growing out of a very small pot tipped on its side and I have had to trim it regularly because the leaves are big and leathery and I don't want them to annoy the neighbor to the south. Some people consider this a "junk tree" . This one is only six or seven years old and I don't want it to get out of control.

 A few nights with temperatures hovering around 2 c, got the attention of the maples. Now we are getting a bit of color outside the gate.

Three kinds of maple, and all are showing color.

The Enkianthus is turning dark red as well.

The pavement is brown from dirt washing in from the construction site every time it rains.

And, up in my little greenhouse - laundry room - bedroom, the step-tansu  is decorated with a cute little yellow flower on one of the succulents and just peeking out from among the leaves in the plant behind you might be able to spot two red spiky flowers on this strange orchid... it's second year to bloom. I also notice buds on the Christmas cactus.

I have also been surprised to see that without doing anything, my picture arrangement has returned to left and right display. Maybe the computer thought it had given me enough frustration for one post. Am I happy? you bet! Happy with the progress, happy with the blooms and colors, and happy with my laptop.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Another piece of the Yokohama quilt show

 Carin has done such a good job of showing the quilts at the Yokohama Quilt show. that there is not a lot for me to add.

She has mentioned both the white chains that keep the visitors behind the lines (and make photography ... where allowed ... rather difficult) and the rather generous amount of space for the viewers to wander through the exhibits.
There were very few places where passing other viewers was a problem.

Quite a few of the outer display walls were this deep red.

Here is a small detail of a contemporary quilt, made by Wang? from Taiwan.
The title is "Blue Rhapsody".

 Many of the quilts, you could have stood an looked at all day without seeing all the details. This "Message Quilt" by Hoysue Yamana, roughly translated as "our town", was only one of such quilts.

 This quilt called "With You" by Tomoko Kamata, had block after block of these little people in all kinds of poses.

There were other quilts in one-artist displays. Many of those I wish I had been allowed to photograph. Just fantastic! At a few of those exhibits, I had the opportunity to talk with the quilt artists. What a special treat that was.

Carin mentioned several times that she had seen one or another of the quilts at the Tokyo Dome show. Earlier, I went back to my older posts to fix some of the labels, and sure enough, I found she was very observant. There were quite a few.

 I was not the only one with a friend. Isn't it fun to poke through the stalls and discuss the items?

Or to have your picture taken in front of a featured quilt?  Better not miss the rest of this show.
Queenie has two more posts with wonderful pictures.

For some reason, my pictures are playing hard to arrange, and rather than raise my frustration level any more, I think I will give the computer its own way and get back to work on my project ... before the deadline is kicked all to _ _ _ _ _ _!

Friday, November 15, 2013

International Quilt Week Yokohama 2013

What a wonderful way to spend a day!  Under the giant banner quilts, you may think the day was all about quilting. Indeed, there were so many beautiful quilts to examine that my eyes were practically spinning.

Compared to previous shows here. (this is the 21st), the viewing spaces seemed much better organized with areas large enough to accommodate
the hoards of viewers.

It was the second of three days (how it is called a "week" must remain a mystery of translation)

Certainly, this show was all about quilts, but it was also, for me, all about friendship. I often attend the quilt shows alone. Even if I attend with my quilt group, moving at the pace of the group, I come back later to spend more time studying the things that interest me.

Yesterday was not only an exception, but a lesson in the form of a blessing. Two sets of eyes can see more than twice as much!

After a few e-mails to coordinate, I met Carin at the train station (well, actually she spotted me before I got lost looking for the way out) . Have you ever made a blogging friend and met in person?  From my experience, every one has been even better than I had imagined. I don't know about other types of blogs and bloggers, but quilt bloggers are a cut above.

We moved through the exhibits in an orderly fashion and at a pace that seemed to suit us both. We noticed different things to point out to each other. We ran into other friends from my quilt group. Kuraishi-sensei was scheduled to teach a workshop in the afternoon and other members were attending her class. It was fun to see them, but then we were back to examining quilts. Not only looking but we had opportunities to talk with some of the quilt artists.

It was rather late in the day that I remembered that I had brought my camera and thought maybe a few pictures to post would be in the offing. Luckily, I have looked at Carin's post. Her pictures and information are far better than anything I might be able to put together.

Here she is with her camera, and you can see the wonderful pictures she has posted HERE.

I find we took photos of almost the same things.
Her first post is of the floral quilts and I only have a few that are different.

This is a detail of "Night Rose" by Yuko Hatano.

I found it interesting for the fabrics she selected as parts of the flowers and leaves ... not the usual solids one might expect.

This quilt with multiple cherry blossoms, by Noriko Tada, was also shown by Carin, who picked out the interesting blue petals in an upper section of the quilt.

This (Flower) "bed cover", by Yoshiko Ogawa
was very softly toned and hand quilted in great detail.

Indeed, though there were fused and machine-quilted pieces on display, the amount of hand-quilting was astonishing.

I can hardly imagine the time that some of these quilts must have taken. I haven't the slightest idea how someone can quilt through three layers with fifteen stitches to the inch. I don't think I could get stitches that small even through one layer.

 These "Field Flowers" (my rough translation)
were made by Shizuko Yoshizawa.

Those Xs in the border gave me a few ideas for a signature quilt I have yet to begin.

Since Carin's pictures are so much better, I think I should wait for her next post before adding my two bits.

Since I have emphasized the friendship link, I have one more interesting occurrence to note.
One of the last areas we checked out was, as I understand it, Groups of small quilts, one each from 90 quilters from Japan, U.S.A., and France. Titled "14th Anniversary "World Painters" International Challenge Quilt Exhibition"
, each group had been given the name of a well-known artist, and created a quilted piece representing the style of that artist.

Having been a student and a teacher of art, I found the whole idea quite interesting and well done.
There was a table in the area with three women sitting there, so a rather natural exchange about the exhibit took place. Then, suddenly, the conversation stopped, and the person to whom I was speaking suddenly recognized me as the blogger who had posted a picture of her quilt from the Tokyo Dome show way back in January! Now, how in the world did she connect ME with my blog post? I am still amazed.

This morning, I came to my computer to find a lovely note from this friend.

Here is the picture I posted earlier in the  year.

"The Vines of Earth" is a creation of Chikako Ueno.

I have learned an important lesson through this quilt that has nothing to do with quilting and everything to do with blogging. I could not go back to my original post and find what I had put there because I am a lousy at adding labels!

Anyway, I was able to look in my cluttered picture file and re-visit her quilt.

The result Was a photo op. and a new friend. Here we are, me, Ueno-san, and Queenie, standing in front of her art quilt.  Now, how special is that? She will be at the Tokyo Dome show in January. Will I be able to pick her out of the crowd as easily as she picked me? For that kind of luck, I think I will have to team up again with Carin.

For the day of quilts and friendship, I give my thanks.

Monday, November 11, 2013

sweeping up

With the state of my house, it seems easiest to begin the cleaning at the front door.

While I was away at camp, I asked my husband to take the time he usually uses with the dog, to sweep the street by our house. This is a daily task that doesn't take but a few minutes. (Well, sometimes neighbors stop to chat, adding to the time in a pleasant way)

Actually, though we call this a "street", it is little more than a path about the width of my outspread arms. As with even wider streets that can accommodate vehicles larger than two passing bicycles, the streets in Tokyo have no names.
(only larger avenues have names or numbers and those names can sometimes change at a crossroads or become confusing).

As soon as I returned, I suspected the street had never been swept. It is interesting that the clean street stays clean but with the path left covered in leaves,   passers-by begin to drop other things. First it is cigarette butts. (We are about that far from the nearest cigarette machine). Next, it is wrappers from assorted items ... candy or other packages. Then comes the bigger stuff ... drink cups from McDonalds or Starbucks ... yes, we are about that far from there ... then shopping bags and bigger items.

After little more than a week, it was clear that no cleaning had been done just by what was festooning the street ans shrubbery.

The task is not a hard one ... actually quite pleasant and rewarding. A breath of fresh air, and a job that stays longer than sweeping up dog hair inside.

The total amount fits nicely in my little handy dust pan... dirt from the construction site, persimmon leaves from the garden to the north, and the usual contribution from our plum tree.

While I am at it, I sweep the street in front of both the house to the south and the one to the north ... not as a service, but if I don't do it today, it will be in front of my wall tomorrow.

I also trim the ends of the pink-headed knot weed,
which I do not consider a weed. It tends to get crushed by passing bikes but is easy to keep neat with a pair of scissors.

Now, back inside, I am faced with the real challenge. I can put it off a few minutes by playing with my blog... but time has come to get going if I am to meet my self-imposed deadlines.


Just a hint of fall

After over a week in a small orderly tent in the quiet woods, I returned to the REAL world .... laundry, a sink full of dishes and stuff piled on every horizontal surface to the point of avalanche as one walks past.

Choir Thursday night, Pack meeting preparations for Friday, New Leader Essentials training Saturday morning, collections merit badge Saturday afternoon, and a "Children's sermon" to give in two services Sunday, and early morning rise for rice delivery today.  Though the leadership course at camp was labor intensive, (and It the time I thought it was going on forever) it all seems quite placid and organized compared to real life.

The sauna that was summer is now over. Chilly nights have arrived all to quickly and I have dug out my warm sleeping bag and fleece jackets. While driving to Saturday's activities I passed a number of parks, all still with trees in deep green. Sunday I took my camera with me, looking for just a hint of fall color. See above ... one small branch on the Japanese maple down the street.

There is just a wee touch of brown on the outer branches of the Zelkova lining both sides of Omotesando blvd. (and the trucks are out each night decorating them with strings of LED lights to prepare for Christmas).

Here and there a gingko displays a few yellow leaves. Their time will come a bit later.

   The Dogwoods look a bit ragged, but also have a few colorful leaves and the flower buds are all lined up and ready to go when spring arrives.

One local tree has a good crop of mikans.
(what I called tangerines before coming to Japan)

Orange is a good color and the gardenia plants have a good crop of seed pods among the dark shiny leaves.

Persimmons will look even more striking once the leaves fall and you can see the fruit among the bare branches against the blue winter sky.

Yes, I am waiting for that blue sky because we have had plenty of cloudy days with rain.

It is really early for these camellia. The "Sazanqua" usually open during the winter, followed by the regular Camellia just before spring.

And, though I have not had even a minute to work on any quilting, my stash has practically doubled!

My friend in Maryland has "gifted" me with a generous supply ... sent with the home furnishings of her son who is returning to Japan.

I already have to live to 200 to use up what I have. I think the women in Tohoku are going to have to help me find a use for some of these goodies.

Tomorrow I am going to have to dig out my Christmas fabric and get busy on a gift. Guess I'll have to do that before I put these things away or I won't be able to find it. I usually sort fabrics by color but going through all this is going to take more time and energy than I can muster at this point.

So much for a few weeks off. At least I have to thank Cheryl for her advice on my yahoo mail. The inbox is back to a more sane format. Now, if only my laptop would stop taking days off....
Like Nikko, it must have enjoyed the days off and wanted more.