Tuesday, March 29, 2016

New beginnings and continuing challenges

Spring is arriving slowly ... two steps forward and one step back.

These Nanohana (rape flowers) are one of the traditional signs of spring. Though usually seen in fields, these are in planters outside the rice store.

This week, the rice store lady added two planters of beautiful tulips. Those she has to hide inside her gate each evening because of the resident tulip vandal.
I see a few of the bulbs I planted in the weed lot have come up this year but I doubt there will be blooms as they were ripped out last year.

And another new beginning, just across the street from the rice store, is a home going up.

There was a ceremony on the lot that had been cleared with shinto priests and family.

Then the foundation was laid and the posts set in place.
At this point the roof will be put on and another ceremony took place.

A table was set in the north-east corner room and the family all gathered in chairs around the table.

At this point they are passing the saki and making a toast.

The following day, the curtains were drawn around the construction site and the roof was put in place. The shingles are now on and work is progressing.

The side street on the way to the station has about 12 young magnolia trees along the sidewalk.

Every year they begin to bloom first at the east end of the street.

It is something like watching spring walk closer and closer to my house as each tree finds it's time to open the buds into huge blooms.

This picture is just to give you an idea of the size of those blooms.

There are several varieties of magnolia in the area. The others have somewhat smaller flowers  This is the darkest and largest variety.
By the time leaves begin to fall at the end of summer, they are as large and round as dinner plates.

In the park there is a larger tree with smaller white flowers and I think I have seen a star magnolia in some garden nearby.

These sure do look pretty against the blue sky ...

Yes, we did have a bit of blue between the blustery rainy days.

And ... my little orchid ... given me by the man down the street has rewarded my patience with two pretty flowers.

I think it is about ready to be re-potted.

And ...

On my design door you can see the first border added to my nine-patch.

Now the size is 64" x 46".
Bigger but not big enough yet.

I am thinking the next border will have something set on point. I have not done the math so I am not sure what will fit.
Usually I just make the blocks and do the measuring later. Maybe I can set them with some colored sashing to add a few more inches.

I did add one more challenge because last night while going out with my daughter and my husband's cousin for a treat in an unknown shop, I miss-stepped on some pie-shaped steps and almost fell a few meters to the bottom. Luckily, I caught myself on the handrail before crashing into the line of people waiting at the entrance ... but ... I broke my index finger on my right hand in the process. A waiter at the restaurant gave me some ice to put on it ... which the doctor said was a good move ... but the x-rays today showed the joint was broken and it had to be set. Now I have to figure out how to go about my regular routine with one hand. Luckily, I am left-handed but practically everything I do takes more than one hand. (and Nikko is not helping at all) I know they make rubber gloves but I probably won't be able to find rubber mittens. This is going to be another challenge added to my already challenging month of April!

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Busy days

The days are just flying by to the point I dread looking at my date book.

Of course some of those days were lots of fun.
On the 16th, Norie and I met with my good friend, Shigeko to take in a museum exhibit.

Shegeko always finds outstanding exhibits to see and this one was excellent.

The  National Art Center, Tokyo hosted an exibition of "The Best Selection of the Ohara Museum of Art".

There were seven rooms filled with ancient art from Asia, going through early modern art from EL GRECO, Manet, Rodin, Degas, Renoir, Matisse, etc.

The collection had outstanding works and those of Japanese artists influenced by modern art.

I was also impressed with the large number and variety of viewers, all ages from young to old, canes and wheelchairs, jeans, fashionable, Fancy kimono, dress kimono ... both women and men ... dress suits and casual. Not a weekend, but the middle of the day and the middle of the week. Japanese and foreigners ...  good English descriptions in each room ... Definitely the highlight of the week.

Other events included a meeting of my old quilt group, Tokyo Merit Badge day ... First-class trail in the morning and collections merit badge in the afternoon. It is always fun to see what kind of things teenage boys collect and share their passion.

Sunday the choir sang two services with practice between and after and though there was a St. Paddy's parade, I was off to lunch with a friend. I was a bit disappointed not to get to meet up with the Tokyo Piping Society in which I was a member for many years.

The quilting is nearing the end on the baby quilt but I will need a guest bed shortly and the nine-patch blocks were all laid out on top. I was afraid if I didn't get those blocks together, I would have to put them back in the box and it would be ages before I could arrange them.

So, above is what I have made so far. The blocks are each only 6 inches square so it is obvious this size is too small for a bed. Now I will think whether I should make more blocks or  find some other way to increase the size. I have been thinking of making a border of nine-patches set on point. Maybe adding several borders using up more of my cut squares.... I really have not put much of a dent in my collection.

Well, the rest of the week is busy too, Choir sings for the Maundy Thursday service and our small choir is singing at the Good Friday Service, a beautiful piece, "Crucifixus" by Lotti, eight parts, and eight voices ... 2 parts for each section and I have the first tenor. This is the second time our small group has sung special music and I feel so blessed to be included.  Special Easter music will follow and then we will be busy with final plans for my husband's memorial service.

Friday, March 11, 2016

It's in the hoop

Finally the backing was assembled and the quilting has begun.

I did have one big snafu though.

I have a container with fabric marking tools, pens and pencils.

For the darker fabrics, I love my karisma pencil with the thin white lead ... even though it gets used quickly and the last centimeter will not hold so has to be tossed out.

Karisma makes leads in yellow and blue for lighter fabrics but they don't come off as easily as the white which disappears as you stitch over it. Well, in my container there are a number of pens, blue and purple, made by several companies. The blue comes out with time and the purple stays longer but both wash out with a touch of water.

Well, I started with the purple because often the blue lines fade away before i get to them. The first pen I used was a bit tired and soon gave out so I reached in the box for another one. OOPS! when I went to wash out the ink with a paintbrush dipped in water, the lines did not disappear. Looking at the pen again, I found somehow a permanent marker had been stashed in the container.

Well, I am not going to redo the whole #7. Maybe it will fade with time. I don't think the baby will be bothered by the lines but I am a bit miffed that I made the mistake. There are many kinds of pens and the writing is all in Japanese. It may be that someone else moved that pen to my box as I doubt I ever even bought a purple permanent marker with two sized points.

The plum tree is still blooming in a wild and disorderly way.

I think this is what happens when you can't afford a professional tree trimmer and your ladder is too short to reach the upper branches.

Anyway, I am still enjoying the sweet scent of those little flowers.

This picture was taken during days of cold and rain.

Note the pink snow on the street below.

And as you may notice my sweeping duty will go a long way up the street as there is just as much on my neighbor's pavement as mine.

Neighbors in the other direction seem to have planted some bulbs in their weed bed.

(As a weed-aholic I always find this long bed of weeds hard to pass by ... and admit to reaching in and removing some that were tossing seeds along our street).

These are very tiny and look like what we used to call, "Johnny jump-ups".
Since each is single, they are probably just small daffodils, but they were a joyful surprise this spring. Now, if only this family would get serious about the weeds in the other ten meters or so...

The magnolias on the street to the station have begun to open their blooms.

They always start with the tree to the East that gets the most sun.

And last night's Cub Pack meeting took longer than expected.

I had made five kits of stools for the cubs to assemble as a team.
They had to saw the long bars for the sides and bottom, sand the pieces, and glue and nail the sections together.

The hardest part was hammering in those nails without bending them. They did work together well as a team, and even were able to decide who would get to take the finished stool home.

That meeting was LOOOOONG and I arrived home long after bedtime. I gave up the idea of dinner, walked Nikko around the block and went to bed.

This has been a busy week but all the stuff on the list has been done except for one ... that is a Skype call with the kids. (not easy when we are taking in areas between Boston and Tokyo.) well, and then the rest of the day's items and maybe even a bit of quilting ....

Friday, March 4, 2016

Finished top

The tenugui fabric got the most votes and it was my favorite too, but the width was only 14 inches and it would have been hard to cut in a way that would not waste fabric. Also, my plan was to add vines and leaves to count (and add width to the quilt). I really needed to pick fabric that would not hide the leaves.

I had used a heart fabric for the baby's sister's quilt and in the end I decided on this heart fabric left over from an earlier baby quilt, thinking the title of the quilt will be, "You can count on my love".

The green of the 7 is washed out in the photo but it does show up well against the heart print.

I think the light background also makes the pale cats show up better or at least be more balanced.

I do not know how the family will use the quilt.

I have not heard how they used the "I Spy" that I made for the first baby, but I made an "I Spy" for my daughter's kids and I know it was used for play as well as a bed cover.

We did enough count-downs in our family ... 5 minutes to bedtime ... three more bites of your dinner ... one more story before lights-out ...

Count the left-handed cats ...

count the cats with eyes closed ...

I may quilt in leaves or cats in the larger areas to make it more interesting to count.

Now I will begin digging through my tenugui for a quilt backing.
The first daughter got a dragon on her quilt back.
Now it is the year of the monkey so I will have to see if I can find at least one monkey tenugui.

Maybe a monkey print would be fun.

Anyway, I am happy to be this far along with the project.

Last Sunday was Norie's birthday and the sweet daphne is perfuming the air along the street.

This bush is actually a cutting from the original we planted when Norie was born.

The original was moved to Suginami-ku while we were living there and I think it went to Norie's garden from there.

Cuttings are not difficult to make so there are still some bushes blooming in the Suginami garden as well.

We had a nice dinner gathering on Sunday to celebrate and Leia helped me decorate the cake I had baked earlier.

Stencils and powdered sugar  ... we both cut and Leia did the arranging of the letters and other stencils.

All on a applesauce spice cake....
The candles were gone and the cake was about to be cut before I dug out my camera.

Early in the week we had cold blustery wind ...
rattling the windows at night ...
But a bit of sun today and flowers along the street are beginning to appear.

Nice to see these volunteers along the street.

The park has good southern exposure. Mine will follow in a few more weeks.

Hope you are enjoying the change of seasons too.