Saturday, April 29, 2017

A festive re-opening of "Blue and White"

A while ago I had mentioned some mug-rugs I had made for Amy Katoh in celebration of the re-opening of her small "Blue and White" shop.

Each week as I walked to the station after school, I looked up at the corner location where the store was set to re-open. I did get notice of the opening party to be held from 2 to 4:pm on Saturday, the 29th.

Since I have an english class from 2:pm, I was not sure I could attend, so on my way home from school on Wednesday, I dropped in to wish them well on the re-opening and hand over the mug-rugs I had made in celebration. Saturday dawned warm and sunny, a beautiful day ... and the first night I had slept with windows opened and only one layer of covers.

All morning I toyed with the idea of making a run into town after my class was over. When that moment came, I looked up at the clouds rolling in and wondered if I needed to go home and close the windows in my greenhouse ... but I kept walking to the station. On the train, I wondered if I should just get off at the next stop and buy needed dog food or keep going. Well, I decided to keep going and I'm glad I did.

The entire trip takes about an hour including the walk at each end, so it was just about 4:00 when I came up through the park toward the shop.

On the corner of the street, there was "Music"!

This scene takes me back many years ... something hardly ever seen these days is a "chindon'ya,

These are street entertainers, employed to advertise the opening of new stores or sales or plays or other events.
Dressed in bright costumes and playing gongs or drums and a variety of instruments, parading in the streets, they used to be a common site. 50+ years ago, there were some living nearby and were often riding in the same train car on the return from the city.

These had been hired by someone for the opening and told not to disclose the donor. They certainly added to the festive occasion and I was glad not to have missed toe performance as they paraded up the street from the corner to the shop.

The last few weeks, an escalator had been built to the second floor and Amy was greeting visitors on the area at the top.

The windows to the right of the escalator are the shop itself.

The shop was still full of well-wishers and some shoppers.

A table was spread with good things to eat.

There were people I know  ... some from long ago, like Amy's son who was once one of my cub scouts, a church friend choosing some indigo koi-nobori (carp streamers), and a nice young man I met for the first time, who has a soul-food shop across the street.

The musicians came in to enjoy the goodies

and certainly be thanked and admired.

Here are a few items from the shop shelves.

Not everything  is blue and white, but those colors are heavily represented.

A nice supply of sashiko

and tenugui ....

Books ... chopstick rests ... small spoons ... and other goodies ....

And, outside the shop entrance, many many gifts of flowers from friends, wishing Amy well in her new location.

It is clear this neighborhood icon is a much loved member of the community.

As I arrived close to the ending time, I did not want to stat too long. I'm sure everyone involved in the opening was tired from many hours of work in preparation.

Amy told me that at a time in her life when she should be retiring, people must think her crazy for starting her business all over again.
I'm so glad she has!

Here is a picture taken from the corner.

The white metal fence is in front of the space where her shop used to be.
The signs on the fence point the way to the new location.

At the far right you can see the blue and white banner at the top of the escalator.

If you are ever in the area of Azabu-juban,
please take a short walk from the station to visit Amy's shop at its new location. If you like indigo items of clothing, specially dyed fabrics, or a gift to take home, I'm sure you will find something.

Actually, a koi-nobori rode the train home with me.

I shall have to hang it out tomorrow...
Tonight I am hearing thunder so I had better take Nikko on her evening jaunt and make sure the windows in the green house are closed.

Friday, April 21, 2017

A Friday finish!

Wednesday the birth of a baby girl was announced with a darling picture on Facebook.

She was in the arms of her smiling father, Pastor Ivan.

At that time I was still quilting a cable into the border of the I-Spy quilt.

With Thursday and Friday relatively free, I determined to finish the quilting and put on the binding.
On Thursday evening, on my way to choir practice, I stopped off at a small sewing shop the next station up the line to buy some bias tape.

I need to get wide bias because I sew it on double and then turn it to the back. This leaves the bias rounded rather than flat and I expect it to wear better than single bias sewed flat.

I had planned to buy a light blue but none of the blues went well with the blue in the border so I decided on a dark red that matched both the red in the border print and the red sneakers on the backing.

I tried to arrange the blocks so there would be no definite up or down, but the sneaker print is directional. It was also a bit narrower than the top so I added a gold strip. Along the edge I used a permanent marker I had bought for the choir to use to sign the last baby quilt.... writing, "I SPY... a dancing cat in a pink tutu, a racing car with wheels  of blue, count the cats or bears or frogs, butterflies or barking dogs, and as you look , here is my wish, find some love in every stitch. April 2017 name, and Tokyo Japan.

Tomorrow I will write a note to the family and a little guide as to how to play I SPY, and other games that can be played such as an alphabet hunt or counting games.

So many gifts given to babies are outgrown sooner or later but I have read that one of the best gifts one can give a child is the gift of words. Those words can last a lifetime and the two "big" brothers are in the best place to give those words. I hope they will have fun in the process.

Last Sunday afternoon, Norie and I went home with Paul's best friend, Wally. Sakura Shinmachi, where he is living, was having a cherry blossom festival. The street was blocked off with a stage set up and some idol performing to huge crowds. Walking along the street through the packed walkways with everyone (except us three) trying to get a good view of the performers, was a challenge.

The barriers were being moved as our visit ended and I wanted to take a look at one of the cherry trees that had green flowers.

Usually one street will have all the same kind of tree but this street had quite a variety of different cherries. Some were almost finished blooming and dropping petals but others were in full bloom.

I don't recall ever having seen a green-flowered tree.

This was a pretty good sized tree.

The variety is "Gioiko".
I found two names, Cerasus Lonnesiana,
and Cerasus serrulata 'Gioiko'.

Often, in some city places, trees are labeled with their Japanese common names but one hardly ever sees the Latin names, even in the nature park.

My father always referred to trees by their Latin names and I have found that very useful as one can see how various trees are related to those back in the States or other parts of the world.

I have gone through many of my Japanese tree books and written in notes as to Latin names and related trees. In fact, in 1990 to 1991 I wrote and illustrated a book on plant identification  of local plants in English, for Scouts to use for rank advancement ... as a two-year project for a PHD in Commissioner Science . I dedicated that book to " the two Pauls in my life: my father Paul Jerabek, who supplied and nurtured the seed, and my husband Paul Fukuda, who helped with the reaping and harvest." In those days, we only had word processors and not only did my husband help translating information, but also arranging the pages. That book was put into a computer file as a project of another scouter so that if I wish I can add more  and edit the maps as times change.

With a day of sun yesterday, I dragged my bedding out to the third floor "balcony" (railing outside the windows) for some airing.

On each corner of the area I have a pot of cymbidium orchids, and I found this one in bloom.

The leaves are a bit ragged having spent the winter out in the cold and rain, but the flowers are lovely.

The "Easter" cactus sitting on top of the air conditioning unit beside the orchid has just begun to show the start of tiny red flower buds.

I also noticed many of the others in the cacti collection are developing buds. Hopefully they don't all wait until the week I am away at Scout camp like they often do.
The sun was out part of today too and I am down to only a T-shirt and one warm layer. Quite a change from a few days ago!

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Where did the week go???

Quilting moves along slowly in the ditch. The I-Spy quilting is now at the inner border. I am now looking at those five-inch prints and thinking a inner square, an inch and a half inside might do the job. Thinsulate is such a good batting and will not shift over time and doesn't need lots of quilting.

I buy thinsulate on a bolt, so I have one of 40-weight, one of 60, and another of 80. For this little quilt I am using 60 weight. I think it is suitable for summer or winter in a home that has central heat. My vision is a quilt for the sofa that can be used in play or tossed over a napping child.

The week has been filled with activities as always but with plenty of extras tossed in.
The cookie factory with Leia filled up Saturday and both Nikko and I ware so tired we both over-slept Sunday morning and I missed the first service on Sunday, causing worry among the choir members.

Monday the usual early rise for onigiri delivery, then to school. There was much preparation going on for the school's "Spring Show" and with the art teacher out sick, a list of last-minute things that needed to be done.

I found out that for the teacher's "dance" performance, we needed to wear something pink. Well, pink being my least favorite color, I needed to do a little shopping. I was not going to spend even 1,000 yen on something I would never use so I looked through the 100-yen shop and found a light red bandanna.

Tuesday I found some bleach and soaked the bandanna in a mixture of bleach and water until it looked about light enough to read "pink". I had hoped to hang it in the sun but nothing but rain and more rain throughout the weekend and on into the week.

Well, when that was done, I sat down to open my laptop and  read another request ... that the teachers would bring a wig for the performance. Well, long ago I had made a Raggedy Ann yarn wig for some Halloween costume ... but, when I went to the costume box, I found it had either been thrown out as something nobody wanted or taken by one of the kids to add to their own box.

Luckily, I had been given some left-over yarn from a friend when his wife died. I found a ball of blue that looked as if something had been knitted and pulled out, but the ball looked to be mostly there.
I dug out a large crochet hook and made a mesh cap, then cut what was left into  just under four inch segments and tied them to the mesh. I was thinking if I didn't have enough, there was a bit of a green ball I might be able to add here and there. In the end, I decided what I had was good enough for a quick performance with me in the back row.

The show was Wednesday morning and some of those teachers were fantastic in their get-ups. I have had good reports on the show and I'm sure there are lots of videos floating around. The kids and teachers were so creative. The back-drops created over the school year were very pretty and held up well... worth the hours crawling around on my knees taping paper pieces together and reinforcing the painted sections. (to say nothing of washing splattered paint off of kids and tables and floors.

Thursday  evening, a service followed choir practice. (I think we may have had half a day of sun somewhere but off and on rain) Today is sun at the moment and tonight I have a cub scout pack meeting to run. Saturday English lessons, and a full day on Sunday with three services. Then another week will be in line. I am begging off a cub camp the next weekend. If I go I need to drive because I would have to take the dog and she cannot ride on the train. It would mean that in addition to the camp fee, I would have to pay gas and tolls while missing my teaching job ... and a late night return after the campfire so as to sing Sunday morning. All that in a muddy valley with only a few port-o-potties.
The kids will spend the day with shooting sports...  We had one of those events in the fall and one last year too. Long ago I taught archery in a summer camp but I can't say I really think kids need so much of these activities. Only a few of my pack is going and they don't plan to spend the night so a trained leader is not all that needed.

Well, back to the stitching.  I am nearing the end of the inner border and thinking of something simple for the three-inch outer border that won't detract from the print.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

The quilting has begun

Finally, after a warm sunny day yesterday, the cherry trees are in bloom. The "street" (or is it a lane?) in front of my house is dotted with cherry petals blowing in the wind ... and the nearest tree is a block away!

It has not been the best of weeks as the root of my front tooth was cracked so it had to be pulled. The dentist made a partial denture to fill the gap but I am finding it almost impossible to eat anything other than oatmeal and other soft things that don't require chewing. Not too good for a nibbler like me. I sometimes think of that bully who shoved my face into the drinking fountain and killed the tooth so long ago. I wonder if she continues to bully people.

I think about the teachers who helped to make poor students the object of bullying. Did they ever know what they were doing? The math teacher who gave a timed test every Friday, then seated the students according to the test results every Monday morning ... Causing the class to laugh at the joke that I ... sitting in the last chair ... was the only student to never move. (because I could never finish the test in the given time, thus failed.)
I think of the Science teacher who, when my twin brother won the state science award, read all my grades to the class and asked how I could be so stupid when my twin was so smart. and ... the English teacher who assigned writing a poem ... the best assignment I had ever had because when I couldn't read, I memorized the words as others read and words that rhymed were easiest to remember. Well, when I brought in my assignment, the teacher walked around the room passing the homework back. She would stop now and then to read out one of the poems she liked. As she went on, I thought maybe she was saving my poem to last because it was much better than those she was reading ... BUT, when she got to me at the last, she did not read my poem. She ripped it up and threw it in the wastebasket saying it was too good and I couldn't possibly written it. That was the only time my mother ever spoke up for me, and then the teacher wanted a copy of the poem for the school literary magazine. Sadly, I had written it as I made it up and the only copy had gone to the trash. If there was any apology, it only went to my mother and in the eyes of the class I was not only too stupid but copied the work of others.
When I walked down the halls, kids walking past would hit the books out of my hands, flying around the hall floor. When I was at my locker, they would slam the door on me. In PE, I was always the last to be picked for a team (and the main bullies were the ones the teacher asked to form teams) Even walking in a line, those girls would step on the back of my shoes, making them come off.

Now I am a teacher. (And that is why ... because I just didn't want another kid to fail childhood 101).
I have developed nerves of steel and a teflon skin, which worked well when I first came to Japan as a weird foreigner. I have long ago forgiven the bullies but I am ever vigilant in school or in scouting to support behaviour  that encourages each child. We build on our successes, even if they are small steps.

Being rather depressed about the tooth situation, I have mostly stayed home and spent my time pulling weeds and working on the I-Spy quilt. I added a border of Japanese print which may remind the family of their time here in Tokyo ... and maybe learn a few Japanese words.
Then, yesterday afternoon, I basted the backing and thinsulate batting and top and began quilting in the ditch. I am enjoying the process and looking forward to the day it is ready to present to its new owners. The most recent quilt has been seen covering the darling baby girl who returned from the hospital The father claimed it to be a magic quilt because the baby sleeps quietly under it. I take no credit for doing magic but am happy it is being used and enjoyed.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Spring break is over and spring is yet to arrive

Thursday I met with Norie and a friend to see an exhibit of the works of Yayoi Kusama in the big museum in Roppongi.

The ticket line was long and wound up and back the street lined with trees wrapped in polka dots.
Norie came dotted to fit right into the display.

The lines for tickets and entry and viewing were very long.
It is rather nice that so many people are interested in seeing the works of an old lady artist. (but it was one huge line after another and all moved at a snail's pace).

Cell cameras were allowed in the large hall and I took quite a few pictures but am not able to send them to my computer.
(the problem with having  smart phone that is smarter than I  ... and a Google android that doesn't like Mr. Yahoo)

Most of the work was done in acrylics on large panels and there were some pieces that looked like they would make fine mola art.

On the train returning home, there was an announcement poster about the Sakura Matsuri this week in Toshimaen.

Norie and I decided to take the exit past the Park gates to see if there were any cherry trees in bloom for the festival.

Well, yes, there were lots of flowers in bud but hardly any were opened.

This morning when Nikko and I went past the park near our house, we were able to count 5 flowers on that big tree that were actually blooming. That is four more than we saw on Thursday. On Saturday morning there was only one... But then, we have had a string of cold and rainy days.
I wonder if the park will extend their viewing once the trees are really in bloom.

On Friday my old quilt group met. One member felt sick on the way and called she was returning home. I met up with the other three and we began to walk to our gathering place. The area has been changed so much that after 45 minutes of hunting, we had to call our hostess for a rescue. Every one of the landmarks we used to rely on was gone!

To be safe at the end, we decided to take a taxi back to the station ... and it was a good plan because the rain had begun again.

Over the long week doing not much outside, I was able to make progress on another I-Spy quilt.

Today I have added a one-inch blue border around the edge and if I have time, will cut a piece of Japanese print that is left from a recent border on my scout leader's alphabet baby quilt.

I am planning to give this one to the two first sons of the pastor who is expecting the new baby at the end of this month.
The idea is that they teach the new baby words, making a game of the quilt. If it lives on a sofa it can be tossed over any sleeping child. The way people come and go, the baby will never remember me anyhow and something the family can share just seems like a better idea.

Once the border is on, I will quilt in the ditch and add some light quilting in each five-inch square.

I work slowly enough I can figure this out as I go.

Now, there is a member of the family lurking in the doorway.

This dog is good at reading body-language.

She knows that when my coffee is gone, she will get her nightly outing.

She can tell by the tilt of my coffee cup when the last drop has been consumed. At that point she begins her pep-talk.

On the other hand, I am not overly eager to bundle up and go out in the cold. Of course tomorrow is an early rise for rice delivery, then school .... then, hopefully, the dentist because my front tooth came un-glued and I will have to go out in public with a gap in my smile ... or maybe give up smiling... or should I get one of those masks ...
Ah well, hopefully next time there is a holiday, it will go a bit better.