Tuesday, January 7, 2020

The rat race has begun

My last stitching of 2019 was a little holiday runner for my geta bako (shoe cupboard) in the entryway.

A few of these blocks were made on the train into the city and back from the huge amount of rescue fabric I was sorting.
My youngest daughter went through the pack of finished blocks and arranged some into a small table runner ... not finished yet but packed as take-along work and the first stitches of the new year.

The feedsack quilt waits patiently for the dust to settle.

Kimie and her daughter Irene were the first to arrive.

We enjoyed part of one day at Toshimaen, an amusement park near our home. Of course Irene had to try out a few of the rides.

There were a lot of displays that were lit up in the evening just as we were leaving.

When my first daughter arrived just after Christmas with her daughter, they made another trip to the park for more of the exciting rides and displays.

Just outside the back entrance is a ToysR us, and of course that had to be checked out too.

The holiday seemed to race by. Kimie and Irene went off to meet up with long-time friends.
Julie Jr. and Naomi planned a date with an uncle and his family, and I got so distracted that I forgot I had to return for my english class... Oops!

Sunday after church, members gathered to prepare the special New Years food for the New Years homeless meal.

Daughter Norie brought flowers and greens from her garden and I made an arrangement in memory of my husband who had begun the homeless meals long ago.

There was a good turnout of helping hands, and besides 8 members of my family, many of my scouts came to help.
With the count of 19 people, we got service hours for my cub pack.

The scouts can count these hours toward advancement requirements. It was a great way to end the year.

Here we are together....

from left to right, Julie, Kimie, me, Norie, and my "daughter-on-loan", Renske.

Granddaughters were busy working in the kitchen.

Here is the group who showed up early on the first to serve the homeless. Nine of my scout group and my family included (six in the front row plus me in the second and Norie and Hiro at the back.
Church family, Scout family and my family ... a great way to begin the year!

 Raising kids who share my love of nature, nearly every day included a trip through parks and garden to enjoy the nature.

My daughter was interested in all these pine trees with belly bands made of straw.
Years ago, red pines began dying off because of pine blight carried by the pne-bark beetle.

These bands are tied loosely at the top and tightly at the base. The insects come down as the weather cools and get caught in the straw band. In the spring, these bands will be removed and burned.
It was refreshing to see so many large red pines in good health.

Another interesting custom is the way pines with wide heavy branches are protected from heavy snow with strings.

These techniques have made this old garden a wonderful place to enjoy lots of mature trees.

A display at the park gate set a new year mood.

Note a small Mt. Fujii and the olympic rings on display.

Another New Years outing was to the Hakone Open Air Museum.
We enjoyed a meal and a walk through to hills,

Lots of new sculptures ...

A hot foot bath ...

The newly renovated Picasso museum ...

and ... of course an interactive sculpture of nets for the girls to play on and in..

Of course, knowing my granddaughters, they all headed for the top.

Naomi tried out swinging on those hanging balls.

It was a fun adventure and at the end, we stopped at the Tenzan Onsen in Hakone Yumoto where we had dinner and a wonderful dunk in the bath.

I'm sure the girls will have a lot to share with friends upon their return.

Kimie and Irene lefton the weekend and Julie and Naomi left Monday after getting up at 4:am to deliver Onigiri with me ... the first delivery of the new year.

The house has become suddenly quiet.

I spent the day taking down the tree, packing up the ornaments, and hunting for things that have been moved in the busyness of these days.

The genkan now has a few mice on display to celebrate the year and the boar was packed up to rest for the next 12 years.

The mouse on the left, sitting among some cats, was made by my sister-in-law. She made an animal for display for each of the 12 zodiac years. The brown mouse is a bell and the little mouse is sitting on rice cakes among traditional new year's items. The brown owl holds my hankos as they are often needed to sigh delivery slips and the like.

The mouse or rat (same word in Japanese) is the first in line of the 12 zodiac animals. According to ancient Chinese lore, the rat had only a slim chance in the race to determine the zodiac order, Yet it's intelligence, agility, and quick thinking enabled it to win, as it hitched a ride on the ox to cross a fast flowing river and then jumped off over its head to cross the finish line first.

Those born in the rat year, (1924,36,48,60,72,84,96, or 2008 are in for a lucky 12 months. The rat is associated with family and fertility so expect a year of hanging out with parents, siblings, or kids)
Well, it sure did start that way!
The rat, as a highly perceptive animal, can sense its environment and know when to act. I will be looking forward to a very productive and successful year ahead.

And ... on my door is the first quilt I made after coming to Japan years ago. It is a simple New Years decoration with items used to celebrate the new year. Games children play, a mallet of good fortune, pine, plum and bamboo, and maybe a sip of sake in that gourd.

Here's wishing all my wonderful blogging friends a very happy new year!


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  2. And a VERY HAPPY NEW YEAR to you, too, Julie!! It certainly seems like yours started off well - ;))

  3. Wonderful family time this winter. Sure enjoyed walking through your photos of your adventures. Happy New Year!

  4. Dear Julie, All my warmest wishes for this new year 2020 💕
    I love watching at all your wonderful photos.Your sweet home atmosphere is looking very very pleasant and your family members so simpatic !! It is always very nice to see family members together who smile and feel happy.

  5. Happy New Year my friend! Lots of great family time. Hope to see you at Tokyo Dome!

  6. What a lovely busy time. In answer to your comment I ave the Swoon pattern - it's on the list!

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  9. So nice that so many of your family could get to Japan this year! All those people together does sound hectic but ever so much fun! Coming from a small family I can’t image trying to have more than two extra people in my house for anything more than a day!!

    How nice that your daughters and granddad all share your love of nature and of helping people in need!

  10. Happy New Year to you and your family! Japan has so many unique ideas like the interactive sculpture of nets and the way the garden protects their trees instead of using insecticides.

  11. Happy New Year! Now you have to get used to all of the quiet again.