Sunday, December 31, 2017

Happy year of the dog

Are you ready to greet the new year?

Though varying from region to region, in the types of trees used and arrangement, the "Kadomatsu" is the most common arrangement seen in the Tokyo area.

The kadomatsu literally means "gate pine", and when displayed outside the house, are arranged in pairs to the left and right side of the entryway.

Inside the house they are arranged singly.

This very fancy one is part of a pair outside a hotel.

This one seen in a shop window is a fancy version of what might be found in the entrance of a private home.

The origin of this custom lies in the fact that kadomatsu are
believed to serve as a dwelling place for the God who brings good luck at the beginning of the year.

This version is at the door of a private home.

And here is a smaller version decorating a mail box.

Even a tea shop gets in the holiday mood.

The holiday decorations at our house were always handled by my husband.

I was not thinking of adding anything this year but when my daughter and granddaughter visited earlier in the month, they festooned the outside garden with colored lights and this pine was added to the gate.

The timing is rather fussy and all need to come down by the 7th of January (usually depending on region as well)

The night before New Years, many people visit Buddhist temples to hear the temple bells rung 108 times at midnight to dispel the evils of the past year.

It is also customary to eat "toshikoshi soba" ... year-crossing noodles ...
in the hope that one's family fortunes will extend like the long noodles.

The time is usually spent with family. Maybe the holiday will include a trip to a shrine to draw a fortune written on a piece of paper or to the imperial palace to wave to the emperor and his family.
New Years cards are sent ahead of time and delivered in a mass on New Years day.

2018 will be the year of the dog according to the Oriental calendar. All the fine traits of human nature are in the possession of those born in the year of the dog. They have a deep sense of duty and loyalty, are extremely honest, and always do their best in their relationships with people.

They can also be somewhat selfish and terribly stubborn and exceedingly eccentric.

Since the 12 animals and 5 elements, wood,fire, earth, metal and water, rotate in 60 year cycles, 2018 is the year of the Earth Dog. Earth is a stabilizing and conserving force, marking a shift from the fire element of the last two years which brought disharmony and impulsiveness.

Highly perceptive, the Earth Dog is kind, efficient, and skilled in communication. The year is expected to bring prosperity, particularly to those who, like the dog, are proactive, work hard, and communicate well. It is predicted that those who show generosity to others will reap the greatest benefits throughout the year.

Interestingly, it has been noted that the dog population in Japan has declined dramatically in the past year. The ageing population may find care of dogs more troublesome and they are also required to vaccinate their dog and have it registered. Cats, on the other hand are allowed to roam and howl and multiply in the city parks. Dogs also cost much more as there has been a crack-down on puppy mills.

My dog year will begin with a walk with Nikko ... like every other day. Then I will be off to church where we will serve a traditional New Years meal to the homeless. (a tradition begun by my husband, Paul, and where he spent the last day on his feet two years ago)

Quilting has now reached the border ... being quilted with a simple cable. I expect to add the binding later in the week. I have two hurry-up baby quilts to make but with days home, I really need to give my mola some attention before the end of January creeps up on me.

Here's hoping your dog year will be off to a good start.

Monday, December 18, 2017

It's in the hoop

Saturday I finished widening the backing by adding a strip of the same yellow print that I used on the front inner border.

This pastel piece of fabric came from a friend among quite a few large pieces.
It is so soft and seemed to be speaking out to be used.

Saturday afternoon I went to the cold empty apartment and was able to pin-baste the little quilt before it began to get dark. It is nice to have one small piece of floor that is not completely covered in dog hair.

By now the top is about half quilted in the ditch. I have to admit that on these cold days, sitting under this quilt while working is a double win.

When I made the last I-spy quilt, I used five-inch picture blocks. Those I quilted inside each block after doing the in-the-ditch quilting. On this quilt, the picture blocks are only four inches and I used #80 thinsulate for the batting. I rather like the puffiness of the quilted blocks and thinsulate is probably intended for clothing and the batting is quite tacky and extremely unlikely to shift. I am seriously considering leaving those blocks puffy and free of stitching. With other battings, I usually quilt more densely with the widest area without any quilting three-finger's width, or about two inches.

Looking at assorted table cloths and runners which get a lot of use and washing, there has never been a problem with thinsulate shifting. I think soft and a bit fluffy will be nice for a February baby.
With that in mind, I will be finished before long ... especially with my last day of school for this year, being yesterday. This will not take a month ... not that I don't have other things on my schedule to complete....

Unfortunately, the hot sauce plan didn't work for long and my door has new teeth-marks.

I think since this behavior worked twice for Nikko, it takes a long time to find that it no longer works. (maybe never, because she still remembers where she found some stinky rotten fish to roll in ten years ago and never passes that place without checking it out).
I am not happy with the scratched up door but considering the damage she could do in the livingroom while I am away, and the number of things she might find that smell like me to chew on ... oh yes, she has chewed several quilts ... I will varnish over the scratches and maybe cover the area with some stick-on covering that I use for book covers.

Eventually, I have an idea to reverse the two doors. Both can be slid into the wall to open the entire door space... and actually, the two doors are reversed with a metal stopper to keep the inner door from going too far to the left. It often confuses guests because most Japanese sliding doors have the little dented grips to meet at the center, thus moving the doors left or right, so when exiting the room, they often try to move the door to the left with no success.

Well, time to get back under that hoop and warm up. Quilting, what a nice hobby to have! and a gift that rewards the giftee....

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Flimsy done

Yesterday included a long trip into town for a District Scout meeting. Usually, I just attend on line but that meeting was a chance to meet the newly appointed District Executive. Actually, that part was rather a dud as she only spoke up to give her name during the hour and a half I was sitting there. The only other thing I heard from her was after the meeting when I introduced myself was that she lived on a base and was here for three years with her husband's assignment. I guess for time spent, the best results were two long inner borders added to the quilt on the train ride in, three outer borders added during the meeting and the ride home. Now the flimsy is finished and I need to hunt up something for the backing.

I used a light yellow pseudo-quilt block print for the inner border and an animal print for the outer one. Next year is "the year of the dog" so maybe I can find some doggy print to use on the back.
That will be my next task to see what I can dig out of my stash. Too bad the baby is not a girl because I have lots of florals in large amounts.

This will no longer be take-along work but now I am satisfied with the size.

Another trip into town tonight for choir so I will need to prep some more take-along work. Guess it is back to the stash for more than one solution.....

Monday, December 11, 2017

Two more rows ...

Two more row have now been added to the latest I-spy.

Having decided it would be easier to add one more row to the length and width than to quilt a wider border, I dug through my scraps to mark and cut more 4"prints and sashing strips.

There was only a little left to do today to sew those new strips in place. It was a busy week and a number of train trips I was unable to get a seat, but the times I did, I could complete at least three blocks each way.

Sunday, as I was sitting at the end of the car with an open seat beside me, a lady moved from farther down the car to the seat beside me to complain about my sewing. It is bad manners, unsafe, I might endanger children ... on and on until her stop came up. I felt like telling her I have been doing this for over 50 years and so far, no one has ever been hurt including my own six kids and four foster babies... but I didn't see any point in arguing so just said "sorry" and kept going with her ranting in the background.

At other times strangers do talk to me about what I am doing out of curiosity or because they are interested in making things too. In all these years the only other time I was yelled at was while in a hospital waiting room in the late 1960s. And once, while I was darning socks in a Dr's waiting room, the doctor came walking through and, though he said nothing, he went and rounded up his nursing staff and returned with them, asking them if they knew what "this lady was doing." Then lectured about what I was doing called darning and how women used to be thrifty by making repairs. I wonder if every woman had a darning gourd in her sewing basket.

So ... now I have to go back to my stash to find border material ... and put away all the other scraps in piles on my sofa. Once it becomes a flimsy and is ready to quilt, it will no longer be take-along work and I need to prep some more stitching so that lady will have something to be irritated about. Just think how brave she must have been to confront a foreigner on a public transport.

Meanwhile, the "Cookie Factory", run by my granddaughter Leia, finished up a double batch of very fancy Christmas cookies.That little girl who could not part with one of her cookies a few years ago is now making more to share with all her friends. We also set up the tree and decorated it with a new string of lights and many years of collected ornaments. Now that my assistant can reach the top of the tree, my work was more about taking boxes in and out of their storage space. Then, on Sunday, when I returned home after church and a concert, I turned the corner of the street to see twinkling lights adorning my garden strip. The elves (named Norie and Leia) had found the outdoor lights and strung them up and down the strip from tree to tree and bush to bush. I guess when Christmas comes, I won't be able to claim it snuck up on me. (still a few weeks to get my act together.)

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

So far, so good

The I-Spy quilt is now 31" x 40".

Much of this stitching was completed either on the train or in meetings.

I have decided to add another row of blocks to both the side and the bottom.
It will take some time to cut and audition blocks but then I can sew them in odd moments while travelling.

That will bring the total size to 36" x 47".
Then, with some added sashing and a three-inch border, it should come to a decent size that can be simply quilted in the ditch.

The days are getting shorter but also sunnier.
Somehow they are also getting busier. With "Choir Sunday" now past, we are working on a program for February, and being pare of a barber-shop quartet and a small choral group, my calendar is getting filled in quickly.

This week my Scout meeting and a teacher's party are conflicting for time and I have more requests for Saturday than there are hours in the day. I know I am going to have to tell somebody "sorry!"

Nikko has not been happy with long days left alone. I have blocked her from the living room with too many things to get into.... but she seems to be more determined to get in and several times broke the barrier leaving teeth-marks in the door. It is a sliding door with no way to lock it. Today I sanded the worst part and then painted the area with tabasco sauce. I am hoping that will keep her teeth off the door while I am out. Her food and water dish are in the lavatory so that is not a problem. When I am home these days, she lies under the heating vent, but I turn off the AC when I go out.

I tried putting her in her crate for half an hour last week but I could hear her barking all the way down the street as I was returning. I'm sure the neighbors would not like more of that. Japanese houses are not very soundproof. It is easy on a walk to know who has a dog or plays a musical instrument. (or who watches the morning news on TV).

Oh well, onward!

Friday, December 1, 2017

How big is big enough?

The last two I-Spy quilts I made, I used five-inch prints with a one inch colored sashing.

This one on the right used a two inch border and another one inch sash. The size came out 43" x 55".

I quilted inside the print blocks but I didn't need to quilt the borders other than in-the-ditch.

This one I added an outer one-inch sashing and a  three -inch border so the size came to 45" x 57".

These seem to be good crib-size quilts or maybe something that could be tossed over a child napping on the sofa.

Now I have begun to assemble the next baby quilt ... also an I-Spy ... but this time I am using my stash of four-inch prints.

I have added the one-inch sashing and plan to put another one inch of a solid color as in this one on the left.

Using the same number of squares, that gives me the size of 33" x 43". If I stick to that size, I would have to add at least a six inch border and maybe an outer one-inch sashing. That would mean a lot of quilting in the border.

If I decide to add another row of blocks, I have ten cut so would have to cut five more plus more of those inch sashings. Then a three inch border and outer sashing... making the total 46" x 56". It would be a lot more piecing work but less quilting than a wide border.

In the end, it is mot such a large quilt and being less "babyish" might be used longer but still not big enough for a youth bed.
The last quilts I have made to be gifted to friend's new babies have been ... I-Spy, 45x49, 43x55, 47x48, and alphabet ... 43x49, 48x54, 45x50, 45x48, and 46x47 for a counting quilt.

To tell the truth, I have no idea anymore how big a crib is. I am wondering if my quilting friends out there have any suggestions as to what size might be most useful. Anyway, I have plenty of take-along work lined up before I get to time to decide.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017


Well, if there is some progress, it is not on the Mola.

It is hard to work on a Mola while riding a train or sitting in a meeting.
It takes more concentration than in those places.

Meanwhile, there are babies coming at full speed and I have a number of cut pieces I can assemble for an I-spy quilt.

This one is for a boy due in February so I started with my tin of four-inch blocks. That means a lot more work because more blocks are needed to make a decent size quilt.

Also, at a certain point ... which is now ... I have to lay out the blocks and do some planning as to which blocks to put side-by-side and what color of sashing gives a better balance.
I wish I had a better space to lay this out flat. Well, there is the floor, but that is covered with dog hair. Then there is a bed in the second floor loft ... but that would mean a lot of climbing up and down the ladder to get more fabrics, carrying them up to try and in the end, back down to put away.

This baby will get a scout block as he has two scout brothers already and parents that are involved.
Putting the sashing on the blocks and joining the blocks once they have been decided can be done on the train. Rain is expected for today so hopefully I can get this little project organized before another busy weekend arrives.

Fall has arrived.

Our pink house has plenty of competition.

This year the Enkianthus was trimmed and makes a big ball of red behind the azalea hedge.

Behind are the three Maples, a tall Vine-leaafed shagbark maple, then the lacy cut-leaf maple, followed by a Japanese maple in a large pot that came from a friend's balcony  when she had to move.

The sweet daphne have set their buds for spring so the promise for next year is in the bud as these leaves are swept away.

Along the way to the park with Nikko or to the train station I can enjoy bright persimmons hanging on their bare branches and winter oranges among their dark leaves. Against bright blue skies, this is a lovely season.

Our final rehearsal for "Choir Sunday" is tonight.
Wally and I have been assigned the lighting of the first Advent candle. As fall leaves fall, Advent appears and the dys move along... Time to stop playing with the computer and get things moving too.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Sometimes, three is not such a lucky number.

Thanksgiving day ... the sun had finally moved in to replace the rain, and Norie was on the way to help with dinner preparations.

I had found a can of pumpkin in my cupboard and there were two eggs left in my fridge. That would be enough to make an 8-inch pumpkin pie.

The crust was waiting in the pie pan when Norie arrived and joined me in the kitchen.

Now, in the "old" days, we had a nice can opener that you hooked in the top of the can, and using a pumping motion, moved around the edge, cutting tie lid as it went.

I think that was tossed out when my husband found one to buy with a right-handed turner. Well, I dug it out and clamped it on the top of the can and it went along for about an inch.

At that point, it would go no further.
Oh well, I had another one that might work. The second one had a red turner and came down from the top ... a little more both-handed ... but after cutting about an inch and a half, it quit too.

Hmm, well, when Marie had come for Paul's memorial service, she had bought me another can opener. A pretty green one that I had not been able to figure out how to use.
There is also a problem with the lids of cans changing in style over the years ... in fact, Norie had commented about the can of pumpkin not having a pull-tab lid. OK, now we are on opener three.

Oh my, this lid is a mess ... no way I can cut through that! Oh, for the good old days! I pulled out the bottle opened and pried the top off with the little triangular point. A bit hard to get the pumpkin out into the mixing bowl, however.
At last Norie was able to get the newest cutter to work and take off the bottom of the can... Well, she is right-handed so I guess she will have to come over next time I have a can to open.

It was not the only can either because there was cranberry sauce in the next can.

The rest of the meal went as planned.

Leia and Hiro carved up the mini-turkey ... chicken.

garnished with some new-to-me flowery broccoli - cauliflower.
And for dessert ....
Ta da!

The pumpkin pie.

"One, two, three, smile." says Leia, and pushes the button.

Now the pots and pans and the dishes are all washed and put away,
but there are fun memories of the day.
The can recycling is next Thursday.
I wonder what the neighbors will think if they see that mangled can in the recycling bin.

And now I am trying to embroider Wally's initials on the napkin. (trying not to make the back side too messy. There is something to say for those machines where you just type in what you want and push a button.
But then, I will have plenty of time to work on this, surrounded by left-overs. Yummmm!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017


Three seems to be an auspicious number in Japan.

The third of November, Is "Culture day". Children of three, five, and seven are dressed in fine Japanese clothing and taken to the shrine for a special blessing ... and usually a photograph of the occasion.

Shochikubal, The three plants, (Pine, Bamboo, and Plum) The first two stay green throughout the winter and plum is the first to flower in the late winter. They are often combined in flower arrangements and used in New Year's decorations, standing for hope and good fortune.

Then, there are those three monkeys ... see no evil. hear no evil. and speak no evil.

Well then, it took three weeks in three different locations to finally get my new senior driver's license.
Might I say, "The third time is a charm"?
Today, as I passed through the train station, the man at the ticket window wished me well. When I got off at the city hall in Shinjuku, I didn't know which building to head for so I asked a man that seemed to be looking for something too. He replied he was going to the same place so let's find it together.

The first building we entered was full pf police and people in fancy black suits. It looked like the way was blocked but my "guide" politely told the guards he was taking me to the driver's license place. The guard said, "follow me", so we set off through the building with other police saluting him as we went. At the top of an escalator, he sent us off, giving my guide directions as to the route to take.

We found the place and compared with three years ago it was working very efficiently. There were lots of people but I had very little waiting while moving from window to window to window. Heading to the last window, I met up with my "guide" who gave me a high five as I thanked him again.

The reverse route had to be changed as the first building was still not allowing entry. I wonder what was going on in that place. Still, I was able to locate the train station as it is much better marked on signs... and when I came out of the ticket gate at Toshimaen, the man in the window greeted me home with another high five.

So, that is one more thing off my list for the next three years.

The next thing off my list is the mug-rug for Wally.  DONE! When I skyped with my two daughters in Oregon, they suggested I make him a napkin and whittle him a napkin ring. Hmm... Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and Friday is my quilt group.How much more time can I whack out of what's left of this week?

I will not need a turkey dinner or pumpkin pie to be grateful. Even in the most trying times, family and friends and even strangers have brought me love and comfort and aid. Blessings abound.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Friends in high places

Along with a box of munchable goodies and Christmas tree lights and carving wood that came flying in from Boston, was this night shirt that my son and DIL picked up at a birder's store on the cape.

I love these long nightshirts but I can only enjoy the design until the warm weather returns next summer.
I have added some feathers to my bedding and thinking that soon the sleeping bag will have to come out of hiding.

Meanwhile this shirt hangs to remind me of so many special friends ... and one for whom I am preparing a small mug-rug to celebrate his 90th birthday in another week.

Wally was one of my husband's best friends, and since he was getting on in years, he had put all his money and property into his wife's name so she would have little trouble should he pass away.

Sadly, she died first, and in Japan, all the property is then divided up by the relatives. To make matters worse, his wife's relatives were not on good terms and not even speaking to each other. Paul, to rescue his friend, stepped in and worked for a year or more, negotiating with the far-flung relatives so that Wally could keep some of his property. Can you imagine having to sell your house so the money can be divided up between relatives, leaving only a portion for one's self?

When Paul died, it was Wally who came to my rescue with money to live off of while the year passed trying to dis-inherit all the debts. His claim was that Paul had refused payment and it was what Wally owed him. Now the time Paul and he spent together over lunch after church or meetings has become my time to share with Wally. I have certainly learned why the two were such good friends.

Wally has worked through the years with JR (Japan Railways) and is a great historian of the evolution of trains in Japan.

He is also the historian of our church and working on the archives as we near 2020.

He has sold his house in Shizuoka ... where my daughter's family and I acquired many plants from his wife's lovely garden ... and is now living in a senior residence in Tokyo.

He moved the things he wished to keep and does not have large quarters.
I have begun now quilting a small mug-rug for his birthday and Norie is thinking of getting him a mug and matching dessert plate. The train fabric I have used for the backing.

Today I finished quilting the crane using white thread and now have begun the background in light turquoise. It was suggested I make a napkin to match and whittle him a napkin ring.  We shall see what kind of time I have left by a week from tomorrow when the celebration is planned.

"Choir Sunday" is nearing and we are working hard on Benjamin Britten, "A Ceremony of Carols", to be sung at both services in place of the sermon. Over many years I have sung this piece and the only thing I need the music for is to know the order of the pieces. We are also beginning to prepare for a Valentines choral event where I will be part of a barbershop quartet and another small group. I was handed the first piece, "Let there be Music! Let there be Love" about a month ago, and we have practiced together a few times. The result of these preparations is all that music running through my brain. Luckily I can quilt and hum and it takes my mind off the coming driving test too.

Great way to spend a cold rainy day!

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

My other life

On Friday evening, at the end of our monthly pack meeting, I was presented this certificate by my assistant cubmaster. It may seem important but no one serves scouting alone and behind anything I have done, there are many un-sung heroes.

Years ago, I ran cub leader roundtables. They were attended by both pack and den leaders.

We usually had a theme and leaders brought something to share.
Sometimes it was games we could use for our meetings. After learning the game, we discussed how it might be tweaked to fit indoor or outdoors and different age groups. Some were for fun and some were learning games.

Sometimes the theme was a craft we could use to meet advancement requirements. We could actually do the craft and discuss how to use it at a meeting.

Sometimes it was a song with motions.
Sometimes a skit or a group skit to involve the whole group.

We laughed a lot. We got to know other leaders ... who we might go to for ideas ... where we could find support and help. We discussed places to go on outings, campgrounds, exhibits boys might enjoy, We became a team ... because actually, no one leads a group in scouting alone.

Now ...
We have reached the digital age. The meetings are set up on line go-to-meeting at the convenience of the person running the meeting. If I am at home at all, it might fall while I am eating my dinner. Even so, we log in if we can bring our computer to the table and listen to the printed agenda with little discussion. We may thank that person running the meeting but there is no real contact with others attending, no laughter, no sense of camaraderie.

Last evening, the postman delivered this plaque and the enclosed note apologising for lack of "an appropriate venue".

I don't need special recognition. I really don't mind that lack, but I do mind missing an opportunity to thank my fellow dedicated scouters who plan all those events that I just show up at and do whatever they ask.
Since meetings today have become more convenient to do on line, I feel sorry that now leaders have traded convenience without even knowing what they are missing. Will the day come when the scouts themselves will come to virtual meetings and camp out on line? Can one out-of-touch old lady, no matter how honored, make any difference? I wonder.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

The trials of ageing

Well, not a whole lot of quilting to report, If I posted a picture of progress on my mola, you would have to look hard to find what I have added since a former picture.

The big focus for this month is getting my driver's license renewed. It expires one month after my birthday which means the end of November.

In Japan, when you reach 70, you have to begin a series of driving tests every three years. One has to book an appointment at a driving school for the lecture and assorted tests. The first one I took at a driving school in Suginami where we were living at the time. It had the usual eye tests and reaction time tests and a "road" test on what I call a Micky Mouse course, plus several hours of lecture pointing out how dangerous old people are when they get behind the wheel. Rather a depressing way to spend half a day.

The last two tests I took at a driving school near my home in Nerima. My husband booked the test day and I just drove over there and took all the assorted tests in one half day. Now it is my fourth time to go through the process and the local school could not be booked.

Actually, I was not able to do any booking. My daughter, Norie offered to make the calls for me but with much trying, was told it wasn't possible to fit me in until after the new year as they were all booked up. It took her husband, Hiro, an hour to finally get the driving school to schedule me. At that, it was not a great deal. There was something about a postcard from the local police (something I never got and there was no information on what it was or how to get it) The location they chose was not the one in my neighborhood, but one farthest from where I live in a strange area that has changed so much over the years, one would never find your way even if you had lived there formerly.

Today Norie helped me figure out the route and met me at the station. It was a good thing too because there was no information where the bus was to meet people. By the time we figured out that white bus was the "Green" one, and waited for the crossing light to change, the bus took off without us. So ... we waited and waited for the next one. At last that one was green. Well, finally we got to the school. I probably could have walked it in the time it took to wait ... had I known which way to walk.
Of course there were more papers to fill out but this time I had Norie's help. Then wait some more ... pay the fee ... then wait again.

Finally, I was ushered up to the 4th floor and Norie had to leave as the projected time did not fit her schedule. I got separated from the rest ... all men ... and sent off to another room. There it was explained to me that if I passed the test with a score above 75, I could come back for a two-hour lecture and the Micky mouse course. If my grade was below 75, I would have to take the three-hour lecture instead. Then came the test. First question ... what time is it now? Yes, on previous tests they did that ... make you put away your watch and then ask you to record the time. No problem there.
Then came the questions about what day is it month. year, etc etc. OK, then four sets of four pictures.

Look at one card, listen to the guy say what it was ... tank, drum, eye, stereo set, OK, the tank was referred to as a weapon, so the tank shoots, it sounds like a drum beat, I open my eye to see where it is and find a stereo set. Good. give me the next  set. Three more sets making 16 pictures, then I was asked to write down what I saw. No problem. Then I was given a sheet if clues as to the pictures and wrote down the 16 words again in that order. Then there was a puzzle with numbers where I had to go down a page filled with numbers and cross off all the 2s and 4s. OK, I can do that. Then I was given three more numbers to cross out. I am wondering what this is testing me for. Then I had to draw the face of a clock and put the hands at a certain time. Well, I guess it was a good thing I didn't have to convert it to am and pm with bigger numbers. In all, I finished the test and they took it off to go over my answers.

The guy brought me a cup of Japanese tea and told me I had aced the test at 100%. Well, do I go out and say I got 100% on a senility test? Am I 100% senile? anyway, I was not allowed to book my actual driving test and the two hour lecture while I was there at the school but must do it sometime after getting home. The paper they handed me was all in Japanese except for my name and the 100% at the top. Hopefully Hiro can wangle me the next session before my current license runs out.

My take on this whole thing is that they are trying to make taking the test so difficult that senior citizens will just give up. A schedule that takes you on numerous trains you are not familiar with to a strange station ... requiring you to ride during rush hour with no chance to sit and some dude shoving past with a backpack in your face, knocking your glasses to the floor and bending them out of shape. The "post card from the police"not an item really needed.  And the need now to start all over again trying to book the next segment. I have heard that lecture already three times and it is very demeaning, on and on about how dangerous the old people are. Then a chance to get behind the wheel of a car that is much different from what you usually drive.

When I was growing up, the elderly were respected for their knowledge and experience, In Japan they have begun "Respect for the aged day". What a laugh. I had to work, riding to and from school that day. Any chance to sit went to the youngest and fastest and I was lucky not to be shoved out the door at the stops. I have heard a member of the government say that old people should go out to the mountains and die so as not to take up space and finances.

So ... I decided not to get old. When I reached 50 I began counting in the other direction. This year I am a teenager again (and this time around I am going to get it right). Sunday I went to join a group of Americans at Shibuya where we protested the Trump ... who was enjoying a sunny day (for once) playing golf.

And, upon coming home from the trial, I enjoyed a piece of celebratory cake that Norie had made for the occasion.

She passed it to me as she left the driving school saying to be sure and light the candle. Done!

 I have so many things on my plate but I am afraid to fill in events on my calendar, lest I get a conflict with the #1 driving test.

It would have been nice if I had assembled a bit of take-along work to soothe my ruffled nerves. Maybe while listening to a two-hour lecture ...?

A week or so ago I read an article in the paper about the problem of senior drivers and requiring them to only drive those new self-braking cars. Yeah, and where do they get the money to buy one of those? My list of four accidents were all caused by young men with cell phones. Three while I was stopped for a red light and one when I was parked and unloading my car. I drive a van and can look down into passing cars and it is scary to see how many young people are texting with the phone held below the steering wheel.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

All done ...

... including removing random threads and dog hair.

Today the sun popped out long enough to get a snapshot. Good timing!  Now I have finished a hanging sleeve at the top and bottom.

Tokyo Union Church was first formed in the foreign community of Tsukiji, a former mud flat where, in the 1860s, all foreigners other than diplomats and those working for the Japanese government, were allowed to live. Around 1870, Protestant missionary families began holding informal worship services in their homes and in 1872, fund-raising was begun to put up a building.

As the foreign community grew (and out-grew the Tsukiji area), around the early 1900s, the church began to meet in Japanese churches ... on Sunday afternoons when their missionary duties were over for the day. Most members were missionary families, but as the foreign community increased, there became a need for a place of their own and a piece of property in Toronomon, not too far from the US and other foreign embassies, was purchased.

With the great earthquake in 1923, the area was decimated by fire storms, less than a month after groundbreaking. The church continued to meet in assorted other locations. By 1928, though, it was decided to sell the plot and build a house of worship at the current location on Omotesando, not far from the Meiji Shrine. By 1930, the church was built and dedicated.

Then, in December 1941, war began and enemy foreigners were rounded up. The church opened up to the greater community to ward off government takeover. The church went on through the war until a fire bomb in May of '45 came through the roof and burned about anything that would burn, leaving two rooms to the side and a basement full of burned junk.

At the end of the war in August, foreigners began to return and by Dec. 1951, services resumed in the restored building. That is the building Paul and I first came to in August 1963. In those days, most members were not only missionaries but rich ex-pats of assorted embassies and businesses. We were told, "Japanese have their own churches, so go there". I think it was expected that Japanese wanted only to practice their English at that place. We did sneak in for some special occasions like Easter or Christmas, but were seated in the basement to only listen to the service over a speaker.

It was in 1973, when Paul was hired by Banker's Trust, that we were allowed to come to services but there were few Japanese at that time and not really welcomed.

In 1979, plans for a new building were put into gear. I have old photos of the ground-breaking ceremony with my young son giving the shovel a big push into the soil.  In all the years since, there has been talk of selling that piece of expensive property and moving to some other location. The area now is full of high-end shops ... every big name in fashion seems to have a glittering store there and walking down the street, one can often hear more Chinese spoken than Japanese. The congregation has evolved as well to maybe 40 different countries represented and many different denominations building on that which we all have in common and giving opportunities for service.

This year, starting in the summer, the basement "Fellowship Hall" has been renovated ... now almost finished and ready to be dedicated. This will be it's second renovation as well as a number of other up-dates to the kitchen and 4th floor which once held a pre-school.That seems to be where the word "Renew" came from when it looking to the coming Stewardship campaign.

I really had no idea for the banner and one quick sketch a committee member made was a computer icon of the round arrow and a finger pushing the button. Certainly that would have made a simpler idea to put on a quilted piece but somehow, something as simple as pushing a button didn't speak to me as a way of really getting involved. A meeting with the very artistic pastor's wife came up with other images ... the sun coming up ... a rainbow in celebration ... a bible verse contributed by the associate pastor ... and some gold  thread suggested by another friend at the choir retreat.

The glittering beads on the window could maybe be more but are inspired by this window we in the choir stand before each Sunday to song the introit and anthem.

I can't say this is my all-time favourite as banners go, but I am glad to have it all done ... and hope it might inspire some passing member to renew their pledge of time and talent or finances to this house of God.

In 1980 there was a small book written, "A Church For All Seasons".
I believe as another anniversary approaches, that book too will be updated.

All the quilting except the gold thread was completed during the choir retreat.... another weekend of heavy rain, no Mt. Fuji in view. Sunday evening was spent with family and friends at a nearby Indian restaurant with heavy rain beating on the windows and seeping in on the floor. Luckily that typhoon held off the heavy crowds in Shibuya so that I was able to park and make the rice delivery.
It could have been very bad because the bus home last night was held up by Halloween revellers swarming the Shibuya area. It is extremely rare for a train or bus in Tokyo to be more than a minute behind schedule but last night's was 58 minutes behind and the driver said it was due to the mess in Shibuya around the station ... people all over the place ... the parade on Sunday had been cancelled so it seems they were taking the opportunity to show off their costumes there.
Interestingly, the Christmas lights had begun going up along Omotesando when I went to pick up the onigiri on Monday morning.  A dozen or so trees were lit all the way to the top and a few dozen more had the lights installed on the lower trunks. I guess Halloween is about costumes and Christmas about lights. (And Valentines day is about chocolate). What will be the next foreign holiday to be embraced by shops, I wonder?

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

A bit of sun!

I was wondering if I added all the hours of clear blue sky we have had in October, would it even come to a total day's worth. Well, I think the six hours we have had so far today might push it up to that much.

At least the inside time has allowed me to finish up sewing all those little letters on to the banner.

I still have some words to go but I have decided to embroider them in a curve below the rainbow. Appliquéing all those curvy lower case letters was more of a challenge than I wanted.

I will also add details to the church building with stitchery.

After taking this picture to send to the committee, I spread it out on the floor and basted the sandwich. Now I will be able to move this to take-along work ... starting tomorrow on the way to Gotemba for the choir retreat. As I recall, at last year's retreat I was working on the quilting on last year's project.

So, here is the basted piece. This is far from my favourite but if it meets expectations, I will be satisfied. I do miss my husband who could take the drawing and have it enlarged to make a pattern.

Now, maybe I should find an excuse to go outside and grab a bit of that sun before the next typhoon moves in....

Friday, October 20, 2017

It has been a while ....

Not much quilting to report ...
even though my last post was ten days ago.

We have had rain, rain, and more rain, and it seems to be fogging up my brain. The 13th was my regular Cub Scout pack meeting and it was after 11:pm when I got home. I was to go to the Boy Scout Friendship Patrol-o-ree but decided to get some sleep and leave early Saturday morning.

I woke several times to the pounding of rain on the roof above my futon, and though I had set the alarm for an early rise, I over-slept. Then, I couldn't find my car keys. I thought I might have left them in the car when I went to get the camping gear organized the day before so Nikko and I set off to the car park. Nope! No keys there. Then I walked along our dog-walking route to see if I might have dropped the keys on the roundabout way home. Nope, no keys. Then I came back home and went through all the bags and pockets again. Yep, at the very bottom of my rain jacket. Bad me! I usually hang the keys on the hook right inside the front door when I come in but with the dog and carrying stuff from the car, my attention to detail was not working.

By the time I set off, the traffic was super heavy so I ended up taking the "expensive" route using the expressway. Even that was slow with traffic, and when I finally got through the gate to the camp, the cars were stopped on the lower road because there was a cross-country run going on.  I have to admit I was not a lot of use to the program once I got there, but it was really nice to meet so many of my Scouting friends ... some of the Japanese Scouters I had not seen in many years. I had to leave before the campfire ... no idea how that went as it was dumping rain all weekend ... I had to have Nikko walked and be out the door by 7:00 am Sunday, because the choir was singing at the early service. I was glad I didn't have to find some place to dry and fold a wet tent as we have only had half a day of sun all week.

Monday I overslept again and ran out with Nikko for rice delivery. I was an hour and a half later than usual but with heavy rain, even though the trains had begun running, there were lots of homeless in the B1 and B2 basements and 30 packs went out quickly. It was much later than usual when I returned home so I grabbed a quick bite and set out for school, happy for the water-proof shoes my son bought me a few years ago.

Nothing getting done on the mola ... It is time for making the next Stewardship banner so I have been measuring and marking and cutting and now beginning to sew. I have been dragging my feet on this one as the theme selected is "Renew". The church basement/fellowship hall is in process of renovation so the committee thought it a good theme. I am wondering what "renew" might mean to those who have never made any commitment in the first place ... but dithering has put me behind the curve. So ... if there are no posts for another ten days, don't be surprised.

I woke to rain on the roof today and it is still raining. This weekend ... from tonight through Sunday ... is another Scout event ... the Order of the Arrow ... that I always take part in, leading the "Brotherhood walk". It was still not known last night if there were any Brotherhood candidates going to be there so one of my brother scouts sent a message that he would take my place if needed. I will be glad to stay home tomorrow ... skype with the kids ... teach english, and SEW! There is a typhoon heading in our direction ... supposed to arrive in time for rice delivery on Monday. Hopefully my brain won't get any more mushy than it already is.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Where does time go?

Well, I do know where some of it went. The weekend of the 30th was the fall cub rally. Since Nikko went along, it involved driving, and though I have driven there a number of times in the past, the roads keep changing as well as the access to the campsite which used to be part of some military housing area. The trip, even with the navigator on my i-phone, took about 4 hours.

A new Stewardship banner has to be made and I have not been happy with the theme, so getting my act together has involved some meetings and discussions and sketches. In the end, I do not have a program to design graphics on my laptop. I used to turn the plans over to my husband for that aspect.

Finally this week I am getting some help from someone who can do that part ... but it means the design is getting changed too. Hopefully Sunday we will look at all the plans and decide so I can get going on this one.

Monday was a holiday, so no school.

I still had to go out at 4:am for "rice delivery". Actually, since the church kitchen is involved in the basement renovations, the team could not meet to make the onigiri and what I delivered were packs of 5 small bean-jam buns.
After a summer break, it was interesting that on the first day of deliveries, those homeless spotted me ... that old lady with the white dog has got the goods ... and all 30 packs found welcoming hands.

We took advantage of the day off for our Halloween cookie factory.

Aunt Marie had sent some fancy sprinkles from Boston and we made good use of the variety.
We had a skype visit with daughters and cousins in Oregon.

Leia went home that evening with two boxes of fancy cookies to share with her friends.

The day went by so quickly.

I have to admit, I spent (wasted) so much time looking for things that I put somewhere two weeks ago when "tidying up" for the quilt group visit.

Some things I just have not been able to find ... mostly things that had been living on my coffee table right under my nose for the entire summer.
Even fabrics I had laid out to use on my mola have walked off.

I added a bit of fill-in design but I spent a lot of time un-sewing things I didn't like after putting them on.

This weekend is the boy scout friendship Patrol-o-ree with Japanese scouts and before running off there, I have my pack meeting.

Choir will sing at the early service Sunday and I will be very lucky to have even one back-up tenor ... and even luckier if that person comes for rehearsal before-hand.

Fall is a busy time of year with scouting starting up, school starting up, choir practice picking up, rice delivery starting up,  and meetings for planning of all kinds of things. The sweet olive that perfumes the air took clues from the spider lilies and is dropping its tiny orange flowers weeks before it usually blooms. The toad lily has buds so still something to look forward to beforeI begin sweeping up fallen leaves.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Mr. Frog got some company

The light border on the dragonfly's front wings doesn't show much considering how hard it was to sew. Now I have to start thinking about the background. When I set it next to the butterfly, the balance is way off.

I am not sure where I want to go with this.

Maybe I will play around with the owl and turtle while I think it over....

Friday, September 22, 2017

Frogs like rainy days

The rain began as Nikko and I were walking home from our morning outing... and it has been raining off and on all day ... a perfect time to spend on a bit of Mola stitchery. As you may notice, I gave in to calls from my scrap box to be included in the challenge.
I have never seen a mola using prints but as long as I am making up my own designs, I may as well use some scraps from my stash. This is never going to look like a traditional mola anyway.

In the late afternoon, Nikko and I took a walk to the next station to find a few things the local shop doesn't have stocked. Since it was raining, I tied Nikko under the roofed area outside the store while I shopped. When I came out, her fan club had gathered, and as I was getting ready to untie her, a lady came running up so happy to see her saying how glad she was and how worried she had been since it had been such a long time.

As it turns out, she often met up with Paul and Nikko in that same spot and had been looking there for the last year and a half. Even more surprising, she reached in her shopping bag and pulled out a package of doggy treats she had been carrying each trip to the store, hoping to see Nikko again.
Well, Nikko was delighted to see her and performed a "lie-down-roll-over " plus a "wait" and "itadakimasu" to get one of the treats. The lady commented that Nikko is looking more slim and fit. Yes, I am not as generous with "people-food" as Paul had been.

The rain had let up a bit and I said thank you to one happy lady and returned home with one happy dog ... and the rest of the package of treats. (those I will stuff in her kong when I need to leave her alone for a while).

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Hopping along ...

The Mola is getting a bit of action.

Luckily, the butterfly is hiding behind the flowers over on the sofa. It might be a bit too big for the frog anyway.

I am thinking of using this leaf as a pattern since it seems to fit the area.

My nest challenge is deciding between applique and reverse-applique to decorate the frog.

And, maybe the frog needs a target like a bee ... but I would rather have him work on eliminating the swarms of mosquitoes encouraged by Sunday's rain.

Over the weekend I did a bit of piecing and it was a refreshing change. I am looking forward to the time I can add some needlework. . .

And watching Queenie's blog for possible stitches that might add to the design ... and be easy enough for me to figure out.

Monday, September 18, 2017

The joys of getting old?

Today is a holiday, but it might be hard to know it.

When I took the train to work, it was slightly less crowded than usual but that is all relative as the seats were completely occupied by the youngest and fastest as usual ... and even though the "holiday" was Respect for the Aged Day, even the silver seats ... reserved for the old and handicapped were filled with young people staring at their devices, or reading comics or sleeping with ear-buds on.
I doubt any of them would even look up to see if their might be some senior standing in front of them.

It was the same coming home, except the silver seats were being used by families with elementary school age kids spreading all over. I think I saw one elderly gentleman sitting there trying to ignore the kids bouncing up and down next to him.

It was a long day and I came in tired and thinking ... what should I have for dinner? Then the phone rang and it was my neighbor wanting to deliver red rice from the neighborhood association to celebrate those old folks in the neighborhood.

This is what came in the package.

Rather pretty with a set of festive chopsticks.

And here it is ... packed in a thin wooden box.

Red rice is made using red beans and it is sprinkled on top with toasted sesame seeds.
It is eaten on festive occasions.
There is no way I can eat this much.

Maybe I could make rice balls for tomorrow's lunch ... or maybe share some with Nikko ...
After all, 14 is rather aged for a big dog.

And, while I am thinking about getting old,

How long has it been since you have seen an infant in a playpen.

In fact, I wonder if anyone today even knows what a playpen is.

Back in the days when my kids were small, it was the thing that kept them safe until they were big enough to know it would hurt falling from the top of the piano ...
or that they might get burned pulling the oven opened.

When I was folding and putting away the laundry this past week, this is what I found on the bottom of a storage drawer.

The last kid to use this playpen pad has big kids reaching for their teens.

Appliqued and embroidered with places for the toy cars and trains to run, it is plain to see that it got a lot of use ... probably made in the mid 60s when we got the folding wooden playpen. I remember also how nicely that item kept the toys all corralled. After spending many hours last week tidying and cleaning for guests, I am thinking that now I am the one who needs a playpen to keep my sewing stuff from spreading all over the house ... well if the house had more space, it would be something  called a "sewing room".
(and if I can't find a place to sit, it will be my own fault for piling things on the chairs.) Oh well, the holiday is almost over anyway.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Time flies !!!!

After about a month of rain followed by weeks of super heat and humidity, we had about two cool days.
Now it is hot and humid again and the plants seem to be confused.

Just Monday, on my way to school, I saw the buds of the spider lilies beginning to pop up.
Tuesday they were already open and declaring it is fall.

Meanwhile, the Autumnal equinox they are known to proclaim, won't be here until the 23rd.

I walked around to the east side of the house  and those were also in bloom.

Because of "set-back" the garden here is only six inches wide and the flower pots are there to keep neighbourhood cats from using the space as a litter box.

The lilies are coming up behind.

This morning they have been joined by the red ones.
Just as spring marches in one flowering plant at a time, autumn usually proceeds in a similar way ...
The gardenias second blooming, indicating nights becoming cooler, then the Higanbana (spider lilies), then the hototogisu or toad lily, and in mid to late October, the sweet olive (Kinmokusei and Ginmokusei ) perfuming the air.

I admit I look forward to autumn weather  (not the typhoons, but the cooler nights and blue skies.
I even noticed, looking out the third floor windows at school, that the leaves on the dogwoods lining the street are beginning to turn red. Last year's Goldenrod now has a house going up on the site and the pampas grasses are still thinking it is mid summer.

The mola grew a couple of flowers to keep the butterfly busy ... if he can find them through the labyrinth.

Friday ... and my quilt group is close on the heels ... it is a very small group but if I don't get busy quickly, there won't even be a place to sit ... nothing but dust and dog hair ... and to top it off, while I was gone on Monday, Nikko chewed up a bag of something. I lock her out of the livingroom but she found something ... maybe flower seeds in a baggy, and there was torn up plastic spread all over when I went up to bed that night and she had been having bowel troubles ever since and leaving messes here and there.
Time to set handwork aside and tackle the giant spoon that has stirred up my living quarters! I wish cleaning would go as fast as the flowers this year.

Friday, September 8, 2017

More mola ?

Friday was my first Cub Pack meeting of the school year so I had to come up for a plan of a game the boys could do while the adults got organized.

I decided to make a getting-to-know-you BINGO game.
I haven't done that for many years so first I made a template for A4 paper and made six copies. Then made a list of 25 questions to learn about those in the room.

I put a place in the middle for the scout to sign his name and then arranged the questions differently on each form.

After filling in all the pages, I went to the convenience store and made ten copies of each sheet. Then I piled them up in a way that when handing them out, each had a better possibility of getting a variety of pages.

The rules were that each person could only sign once, and I told the boys to look carefully for harder questions and get those filled first. One was "someone who has climbed Mt Fuji" and I asked off hand who had done that and other than me there were three others in the room.
There were plenty of easy questions  like plays a sport or has a pet.
After going over the rules, I asked if there were any questions ... sure enough, my #1 questioner wanted to know if the scout had signed the center, could he also sign one other of the questions. Good point! If you come to the end and still don't have any bingos, sure, you can sign if the question suits you. One of the questions was someone who knows an Eagle Scout. There were adult Scouters there wearing the Eagle knot on their shirts so I was surprised that was a hard one.
In the end, one boy got 7 bongos on his sheet. There were  only a few boys who didn't get any.

Most of my day that wasn't taken up in preparation, was taken up by the meeting or travel. The long trip managed to finish up all but the body on my butterfly mola ... and that part got added this morning.
I am planning to add embroidery in the end. The more of this I do, the more I realize I am more of a patchwork kind of person.