Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Getting ready?

The New Year is coming ... ready or not!

The Scouts did their part.
Every year we are guests of the Japanese Scouts at a mochi-pounding event, held at their sponsor's temple.

The guests include the Girl Scouts in the area and members of the BSA Packs. Many of these kids have mochi-pounding events at their schools but at this event the kids can pound as much as they like.

The mochi is eaten with seaweed or other compliments and put into a delicious soup, that is a New Year specialty. Some of the completed mochi came home with the participants. Our Scouts took cookies to share. (none of those came home)

A delicious turkey made it to our table on Christmas and was joined by Norie's family and Papa's elder sister.

We had to keep passing food because there was no room on this small table to put it down.

Rudolf showed up and did her part.

The biggest challenge was to take a picture with the least amount of junk piled up in the background.

Clean that plate Rudolf, and you can have a piece of pecan pie!

This morning the frost was on the pumpkin ...

Well, no pumpkin in the park but there was lots of pretty frost.

Does that mean winter is here?

Don't tell the roses. They still think it is summer.

And don't tell the jonquils. They are rushing into spring.

Check with Piper, my pied canary. He will be starting the year with a clean cage ... well, it is clean now and he is working fast to remedy the situation. Honestly, I could swear my husband gifted me this bird so he wouldn't be the messiest member of the family!

We have had birds in the past but Piper is the champion food slinger and pooper. While the cage was being soaked and scrubbed, I had to spray the window and clean it with a metal spatula! At this moment he is making the best of the daylight hours to make that cage look like home! Well, he is a very good singer anyway.

So, are you ready to welcome in the New Year?
Have a good one!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

It's almost here!

Last Friday, Leia came with a plan to make our tiny room look more like Christmas.

I dug out the little four-foot tree from the storage and set it up on the coffee table, then added the lights.

Leia opened the boxes of ornaments and decorated the tree. This year she was able to reach almost to the top so there was much less for grandma to do.

My specialty is the top and the paper ornaments made each year by my youngest sister.  Each year my sister's card includes a three-dimensional ornament to be assembled and it is fun to look back over the years of creativity. Often the tree stays up until the card arrives all the way from Ohio and the decoration can be assembled and hung.

This year the only other decoration I took from the storage was a wreath to hang on the front door. ... and of course a runner for the table and quilted tree skirt.

My daughter was very skillful when taking these two pictures to avoid the stacks of boxes waiting to be sorted.

The other activity was our cookie factory. I put my cookies into a container to take to our Scout event yesterday and they were quickly consumed.

My greenhouse - bedroom is definitely in the Christmas mode.

This is what my hanging laundry gets to enjoy.

I have not been able to keep African violets because of extreme temperatures in summer and winter but the cacti don't seem to mind ... and can even take being neglected during times I am out with the scouts  or travelling to visit kids.

There are a number of Christmas cacti, these being first to open and others still in bud. This is the view facing south.

Along the wall to the east is a step-tansu and each step holds a collection of plants. The wall behind is the slope of the roof.

The little poinsettia came to me as a gift.

 The south-east corner has a little ficas left behind by my #4 daughter.

The flowers are hard to see but every winter it develops tiny little figs.

It must be happy in this corner under the stained glass window decoration and the dream-catcher.

And in the south east corner are more plants.

Even outside the window there are orchids and prickly pear cacti, Jade trees, and Easter cacti filling the tiny space  on top and behind the air conditioning unit.

And, to the north, under the roof over my futon and the stairs.....

Another plant left behind by my #4 daughter, a large stag-horn fern.

I actually don't know how this plant needs to be tended other than to offer it a drink from time to time, but it must like the location because it has taken over the space above my bed.

I grabbed these pictures while the washing machine was doing its duty. Usually the place where I am standing with the camera is festooned with drying laundry.

Actually, this little room is a great place to dry clothing. I do not have to worry about sudden rain or wind-blown dust and pollen.
In the winter it adds a bit of moisture to the dry air.

I can toss my futon over the balcony railing to air.
(airing bedding is a typical Japanese sight)

Tonight will be filled with the special music already spinning in my head and then I will crawl behind this plant to my little nest on the roof.

Tomorrow will be filled with the smells of baking and busy preparations for family dinner.

The stacked boxes  ... the sorting of pictures ... everything that is not done will just have to wait. Somehow we will muddle through ...

And as I crawl back up to my cozy nest on the roof, this little guy in Oregon will be hanging the last decoration on his Advent calendar and checking out the stocking.

Warm Christmas wishes will be winging their way across the pond to my blogging friends.

Wishing you all Peace and Joy this Holiday season.

Friday, December 12, 2014

10 days and no quilting!

In fact, the only time I have picked up a needle is to do mending and darn socks!

My house seems to be suffering from the Giant Spoon Syndrome ... you know where the giant spoon swoops out of the sky and stirs everything up.

We are in the process of getting things that have been stored for many years sorted out and disposed of. There must be a dozen large cartons of loose photographs and negatives to go through. Many bring back memories of days past ... when the kids were young ... of trips here and there ... of many Scout functions ... of nature and pets and groups of people that I can't remember.

There are fancy party dishes, kid's clothing. dolls, puzzles and games, antique furniture, and all of it has memories attached so it is not something to send to landfill. A very stressful activity in a busy holiday season.

Meanwhile life goes on in Nerima-ku.

Several neighbors are building new homes and I happened to pass this ceremony just down our street.

After the land has been cleared and before  the construction begins, the outline of the new building is marked out with string in the ground and the family gathers for a ceremony to bless the ground and work about to begin.

Dressed in robes is a Shinto priest and the family is burning incense.

Wednesday another lot was cleared at the end of our street and I suppose there will be a ceremony held there soon.

Choir Sunday went well.
It is a joy to sing great music.

Now we are in Christmas mode and practicing music for the next few weeks.

One is a special piece, O Magnum Mysterium, by Morten Lauridsen.

It will be sung in two Christmas eve services,
a cappella, with a small group, of which I am the first tenor.
Of course we have been having special rehearsals since fall and finally I am beginning to feel a bit more confident.

Returning home after evening practice, I walk down Omotesando to the bus street.
During the month of December, lights have been strung on the huge Keyake (Zelkova) trees lighning the street.

The show brings out crowds to enjoy the atmosphere and of course everyone is carrying a camera ... if not the real thing, one on their cell phone.

There are several overhead crossings and it would seem the ideal place to get a perfect view of the entire street......

BUT, no, there are guards ...one on each side per crossing ... to prevent anyone from going up to the crossing.

True, a few hundred people gathering on that bridge might be dangerous ... but  ... as long as those guards are standing at each end, why can't they let five people go up and then, as those come down, allow that many more? Surely, ten people would not bring the whole structure down.

To me ... and my western mind, it would make more sense and promote a better sense of pleasure. After all, what difference would it make to those guards? It might give them something other to do than just stand at the foot of the stairs.

And, lest someone think they might take a picture from the middle of the street while in the level crossing ... Oh no, there is another guard moving people along.

If you want a view (or even photograph) of the beautiful lighted trees arching across the boulevard, you'd better be quick before you are spotted.

How strange that these guys in the yellow coats owe their jobs to the lighting but they are there to prevent the public from photo ops.

The building with red in the windows actually is putting on a light show in those windows, as it is ever changing behind the avenue of trees.

A project is awaiting in the wings ... a gift for the Women's Conference speaker. It is forming in my mind and I will have to get to it soon if I am to finish in a month.
A darling picture of my youngest grandson hanging decorations on the Advent calendar has come. Christmas decorations await in the cupboard but making room for them in this place is going to be a huge challenge.
I hope your days are going more smoothly than mine as the holidays approach.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Problem solved!

Well, The computer must have figured I was frustrated enough and decided to fix itself. When I opened it up this afternoon, the first thing I see in the place to sign in my password. Usually it is just a little lighted slot. recently I am getting a touch-screen keyboard instead, but the screen had gone back to the original look. Today when I flipped the top open  ... there was the touch-screen again.

Well, after putting in my password, I decided to test the camera again. Sure enough, this time it worked and I could down-load pictures again.

So, here are some non-quilting pictures of my time without the computer.

Each morning I sweep the street ... down one side to the corner, back up the other ... and around our corner.

This week most of the sweeping is persimmon leaves and maple leaves.

These are the ones from in front of our house ... and my little sweeping bin ... the broom hangs from the handle.

The cut-leaf maples have been red for some time and finally begun to fall.

Most of them get caught up in the azalea bushes
but a few make it all the way to the new pavement.

When we moved back to this house, I had some of the enkianthus bushes removed to make room for a few other plantings.

This maple was supposed to be a snake-bark maple but that is not what it is.
My Japanese tree book shows one three-leaved maple, Acer cissifolium, but the shape of the leaves is different with smaller lobes and the stem is red. I don't think that is what this is.

I found a Paperbark Maple, Acer griseum, in the "Sibley Guide to Trees" that I picked up on my last trip to the states. The leaves in that book are also a bit different  but much closer and the bark of this tree has become a bit shaggy in the past two years. The tree is still rather young. It does have pretty color in the fall and that was what I was looking for when we bought it.

The third maple came to us in a pot.

It was rescued from the balcony of a friend who ad moved to a new apartment and didn't have room for it,

It sits happily on the entry step.

Our neighborhood has two other Japanese Maples and these days those three trees fill my bin before I even finish the street.

My husband thinks we should name our home "Three Maples".

Can you tell which tree is dropping what?

For a tiny plot, we contribute plenty of leaves ... especially if we add the Plum.

Today I swept up Cherry tree leaves and Keyaki (Zelkova). The nearest cherry id two blocks away and I have no idea where the Zelkova leaves are coming from but the wind has been strong and cold.

The Great Tits were complaining that I should move so they could come back to the window feeder.
And now that the picture down-load is back to normal, I'd better get back to the "real" work.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Now what!!!

At this season of Thanksgiving, I don't know whether to be thankful for my computer or fling it across the room.

I am becoming aware of Google making changes without warning but when the computer starts changing things ... I can not go crying to my usual friends for suggestions.

I have so far been able to download pictures from my assorted cameras. The Canon and the Nikon get different reactions but then I go to the windows explorer icon and click it, there is a list of cameras and all I have to do is right click on the name of the camera and the download window comes up.

Now, however, nothing happens and there are no longer camera identities to click on. At first I thought my camera battery might need charging. Nope, that didn't help. Today when I connected my Nikon, the computer said "peep" as usual and  the camera light went on but....nothing came up in windows.

I have also noticed lately that when I open my laptop, I sometimes get the regular space to put in the password but sometimes that space is above a touch-screen. Well, I can use the keyboard still or I can use the touch-screen keyboard so that occasional change is not a problem. BUT not being able to download pictures IS a problem and I am wondering now if I have done something to make the computer mad or it is just testing my patience.

I guess I should just give up and go quilt so in case the computer decides to go back, I will have something better to post than a rant!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

What's in a photo op?

At least three times a week I walk back and forth across the street at this crossing.

It is on Aoyama-dori, between Aoyama 1-chome station and Omotesando station, It is an "Outer Garden" of Meiji Shrine. At the end, there is a building which I understand to be a picture museum.

I have never been down the street, or visited the museum, but usually it is a quiet street with little traffic and I feel I am wasting my time standing there waiting for the light to change so I can be on my way.

Last week, however, I noticed the ginkgo trees lining the street had begun to change color. Oops, I had forgotten to bring my camera. Therefore, I made sure to put it in my bag on Sunday before leaving home.

 So much for the quiet empty street ... In fact, there were so many people standing in the middle of the road waiting for cars to pass so they could get a shot of the trees that a policeman at the curb was blowing his whistle and trying to move them along.

It was all I could do to grab a quick shot and hope I didn't get a head or shoulder in front of me.

Anyway, enjoy this much of the lovely autumn day with sun and blue skies. Today it has been very dark and gloomy with rain falling.

I was hoping for a different photo op because I managed to finish the advent calendar and hopefully it will go out in the evening mail and make tomorrow's plane to Oregon.

I still paste pictures in my paper quilt diary so before posting I tried to find a place with natural light for a photo. Well, everywhere outside was wet and dripping and my greenhouse was the only room with any light,but it was full of hanging laundry.

In the end, I tacked the calendar on to my door and got the best picture I could.

This is the fifth calendar I have made and one might think that they would get better with experience. Sigh ...

... I really have to start sooner rather than be controlled by deadlines.

The numbers on the pockets are somewhat wonky. I somewhat envy those sewing machines that embroider words and numbers with the push of a button.

I cut the wooden bits in the afternoon when the sound of the saw would be less likely to disturb the neighbor but traded that aspect for better lighting.

I took my knife and those bits to camp on Saturday and didn't finish but did get enough done that I could finish by Monday morning.

I was sanding the carvings during my skype call with the kids and then dug out my box of acrylic paint tubes.

The first two coats of varnish went on before bed time and four or five more coats during the day.

During the painting, one piece got lost and is still hiding somewhere.
It was an extra just in case so I quit looking and finished the 25 that were waiting.

I had to go shopping for a box of paperclips to cut for the hanging loops. I was sure there were some left over from other years. After all, they come 130 to a box, but there were none residing in the drawer where they usually live so they may have been re-purposed for other duties.

Tomorrow's forecast is also rain so I am glad I didn't wait for a perfect photo op. Perhaps my son will send me a picture of Ryden hanging the owl on the tree... but then, Oregon gets rain this time of year too.
Tomorrow begins a new project with a bit longer deadline.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Re-runs of the Yokohama Quilt show

I think I have waited too long to continue my posts about the show.

Since Queenie's pictures are so much better, I was kind of waiting to see what she would post before subjecting my viewers to my rather wonky takes.

Now my brain has become a bit foggy as to what categories my pictures belong or what Queenie has already posted.

Some of those categories were Contemporary, Traditional, Flower, "Wa" (Japanese quilts), and "Message" quilts.

Years ago I made a quilt of flower blocks on a black background, not as fancy as this quilt made by Kayoko Ozono, but large enough for a queen-sized bed. The bed was way too large for any bedroom in this house so the quilt was passed to one of my daughters but I still have memories that were brought to mind when I saw this garden,

This quilt by Harumi Asada has a title ...beginning with 100 flowers.
(something about colorful potential)...

What a lot of work went into that one. There are different flowers in the centers of each of those sun flowers.

This quilt is really more striking than my photo shows, so I include a close-up shot.

Titled "Clematis",
by Yoko Ozaki,

you can appreciate the amount of work that went into not only the background, but the applique and stitching.

It was done by machine but probably hand working over all those layers would have worn out a lot of fingers.

Now my memory becomes a bit foggy.

I can't remember what category this was but maybe still in the flower area.

3 x 3  (nine)

is the title of this collection of nine-patch blocks setting off lovely floral hexagons.

Since many of my plentiful scraps are in the one-inch box, I am always attracted to new ways of using them, and I think this is a cleaver possibility.

Both Queenie and I thought the border was a bit heavy on this Hawaiian quilt.

The workmanship by Yoko Kanazawa is excellent.
I was rather surprised to see print fabrics used in the boarder applique
because Hawaiian style usually deals in solids.

This quilt would be fun to see on a bed with the borders hanging at the edges.

This Bridal Bouquet quilt by Yasuko Hasegawa
seems to use either feed sack material or reproduction fabrics.

Since I grew up with clothing and quilts made using similar fabrics, it had a certain appeal. This pattern was also popular in that era.

(Note the little patches in the borders and you will know another reason it caught my eye).

Ginko Sueyoshi created this lovely "Christmas Rose".

As I recall, it was machine work and there was a lot of detail in the quilting.

There were a number of "Japanese Quilts".

This was somewhere between those and the flower quilts.

I guess cherry blossoms say "Japan", even on quilts. Matsuko Morishita put a lot of hand work into this quilt.

This quilt also seems to have been among the Japanese quilts.

The title has something to do with "Wa"

Made by Yuko Koshikawa.

There was plenty of embroidery in each of those circles both in the blocks and in the border.

And, here is a bit of folk art.

The title escapes my translation skills but I thought you might enjoy this struggle with a giant carp and the amazing hand work of Sanae Yamaguchi.

This quilt by Emiko Kushi caught my eye because all these designs are copies of manhole covers.

Somewhere in the quilt world there is a book of these covers and I have seen them and even photographed them in my travels around the country.

Tokyo's manhole covers have a large cherry blossom but they are not in color ... probably just too many to justify the expense.

They were first brought to my attention by my friend, Marion Fox, living in Maryland and visiting her son who was then working at the US Embassy. I still have a small album of pictures she sent me of manhole quilts taken at a show in her neck of the woods.

And, because I love to see kids getting hooked on quilting, I have included this photo of a group quilt made by Fujieda High School Students,

entitled "SU*I*KA", which is the name for watermelon.

One of my goals before leaving the show was to meet up with my new friend, Chikako Ueno.

As, in  the past, she found me before I found her. I had just said good-bye to my friend Queenie and was heading over to the Nihon Heritage Quilters Guild exhibition area.

This is always a wonderful example of how quilting brings people together. Their theme for this exhibit was "World Costume". Quilters from France, Korea, and Japan were given the name of a country and then made a small quilted hanging representing the traditional costumes of that country. This was the group's 15th Anniversary exhibit and very cleverly done. This is a picture of me with Ueno-san beside her wonderful interpretation of Korean costumes.

The group members were chatting around the center table and trying to think up a new theme to be used next year. We had an all-too-short visit before I spent my last bit of time hunting through the shops for pencil lead and batiks in purple. (I did find purple and green batik ... the color just right but it was already cut in pieces too short and had goldfish swimming all over ... Maybe not quite what that rainbow wants, but I still have two more places left to look).

Between the show and now, I have been hustling to finish up the Christmas present for my elder son.

This is the fifth Advent calendar I have made and I still need to add the hanging sleeve and get those pieces of wood carved and painted so it can get into the mail before Advent begins.

I don't think Ken looks at my blog but even if he does, he already knows I have drawn his name this year and this is probably what he will get.

I have a Scouting event from early tomorrow and in some of that outdoor time I plan to do some whittling ... rather than add wood chips to the dog hair that is already covering my floors.

So ... off I go to re-fill my coffee cup and hunt up my sharpest knives.
Hope your weekend is productive too.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Yokohama quilt show, part 2

I have been rather distracted by my senior driving test that I had to deal with today, and am now glad to have that behind me. There is really no way to prepare for the test. They check  your memory, your eye sight, your reaction time, speed at certain tasks, and driving skills on a tiny course in a strange automobile. It is a three-hour workout to maybe check your stamina because they lecture to the class as if everyone was a five-year-old crossing the street for the first time.

I was the only woman in the large class and the oldest but I got 98 out of 100 and passed. Some of the tests I finished up early and had to sit around for 30 minutes wishing I had brought some quilting to do.

Looking over my pictures, I think they are rather poor.

Queenie has posted much better pictures of the same ones I took.

There were some nice close-ups of these pieces in the "Small Quilt Contest".

I rather liked this bright cheerful sunflower by Mariko Hayasaki.

This challenge is a good place to see some interested embellishments.

This one entitled "Marriage" is by a Chinese quilter.

The names on all these quilts were in kanji only.

A few of the titles were in English, but only a few.

Both Queenie and I were attracted to this small piece of quilt art bu another Chinese quilter.

If you haven't seen Queenie's post yet, please don't miss it because she has some wonderful details.

At the entrance of the "Genji" quilts, there was a counter of Hagoita ... decorated battledores.

Though the game is played by hitting a feathered weight as in badminton, it is just as likely to see fancy decorated ones with seasonal themes.

There were many and these only happened to be some that were visible between the crowds.

These were the Tale of Genji quilts.

They seemed to be very popular with the crowd and though no pictures were allowed, I saw many cell phones being aimed in their direction.

These must have been inspired by woodblock prints.

There was a section of bags and wearables ...
some of those with matching bags...

This coat caught my eye and I am sorry I cannot put a name of the quilter on it.

It must have been hiding somewhere.

Queenie had some very good shots of the winning quilts.

A few over-all pictures will give you an idea of the exhibition hall.

Unlike the Tokyo Dome, which is a covered baseball stadium with a great deal of natural light,
This hall is at the lower floor of a huge building.

It is not unusual to have different conventions going on using all or part of different floors. The space here was all taken up by the show and, vendors.

Instead of being well lit from above, there was a spotlight on each quilt.

Sometimes it was to the quilts advantage showing off the quilting but other times it made for a challenge to get a really good over-all picture.

As at Tokyo Dome, it is usual to see these huge banner quilts hanging above everything at the center of the hall. I wonder what they do with them when the show is over.

As the day wears on, the viewers begin to leave for home duties and the quilts get much easier to view and photograph without shoulders and elbows getting in the way. Of course, by then one is getting more and more tired.

I do have a few more favorites to show but I still need to sort through and pick out things that Queenie has not posted. I do hope you will check out her posts if you have not yet done so,