Friday, May 26, 2017

Doing bad while doing good

Well, the alphabet quilt is arranged and ready for piecing. (Thanks to a rainy day)

By the time I had appliqued the letters and sewn the first row, the rain had stopped. I needed to move around a bit after a day inside, so I went out through the gate with my little broom and sweeping bin to clean up the street. I like both the exercise and the pleasure of a clean street.

I usually start at my gate, sweeping south, down one side to the corner and up the other side. I can usually fill the bin at least twice, and empty it into one of the large bags I bring home from rice delivery.
As this road was once a back ally, very few houses open on to this street but on to the larger street on the other side of the block. People who sweep their streets, just take care of their own entryway and ignore the back path.
When the house across from mine was sold, house and garden were wiped out and two houses put in the space. One faces the small road to the north and one faces the path, but it is occupied only occasionally by a very young single male. He doesn't seem to own a broom but his plantings are not too messy.
Next to me on the south is a couple who work long hours. The wife is a librarian and drives a long way to work. Both the couple leave early and return late. Their plantings are one large hydrangea, now about to bloom and a small border plant from Okinawa with purplish leaves and purple flowers in the summer.
The third house to the south faces the back street and the nearest corner houses what I would consider one of the world's messiest plants.

This is a deciduous evergreen. Illicium anisatum, or Japanese Star Anise. "Shikimi" in Japanese.

these are often found on the grounds of Buddhist temples and often referred to as sacred anise tree.
The leaves, flowers, and seeds are highly toxic and dried powdered leaves can be burned as incense.

Anyway, this tree is always dropping something... flower petals, leaves, flower stamens, seeds and seedpods... The middle of my sweeping route, at this point the bin is full and I can dump everything into the bag.

on the return trip, there will be more to collect.

Well, yesterday I worked my way to the corner and had finished filling one bag, so went back for another.

Across the street from the house with the messy tree is the "weed lot". I think I have posted about this lot long ago.

Three or four years ago, this lot was a big problem in the neighbourhood.

 The weeds growing among the stones and broken glass were over knee-high.

People passing by chucked their trash into the weeds ... plastic bags, drink cans, cigarette butts, paper, etc.

When a dog pooped here, even on a leash, the owner didn't bother to clean it up. there was plenty of cat poop too from the large collection of cats that get dumped in the park.

Rain collected in the trash and mosquitoes held parties while waiting for the slower walkers. The neighbours complained but no one ever did anything about the problem.
I never took a picture of the weeds, but this is what it looks like now.
The two houses seen in this picture are the backs of the houses facing the park street. There is an apartment to the right and this lot was probably a set-back when the apartment was built. I do not know who the owner is, but for a while it was rented out as a place to park a car.

Well, to get back to the story, as I had to get another bag anyway, I decided to pull up the weeds that were coming up among the rocks. Mostly that is wood sorrel, but there are a few very invasive weeds that will take over if given the chance, and many have seeds that spread by the wind. Because of a rather busy schedule I had not weeded much over the last month.

My friend at the corner stopped by to thank me and offered to take the full bag for trash collection, as the site for collection is nearer her house.

Now, living in the apartment next to the weed lot is Mr. Mori. This is his view from the lot. The only time his windows are opened is when he hears me outside and opens the window to tell me I am trespassing and to stop.

He probably heard the conversation with my friend, because after she had gone into her house, he came out the front door and began yelling at me.  As usual I apologised for disturbing him but that only made him more angry. He was yelling that I was a "dorobo" a burglar.   Huh? for stealing weeds? That I should get out of Japan and go back to my own country.

Of course I have heard his complaints many times and I told him I would be glad to stop if I heard from the owner of the lot to do so. After all, I had not touched his weeds or the trash they were collecting.  Well, my friend, probably having heard the shouting, came back out and walked him off using a soft gentle voice, trying to reason with him. The shouting went on for quite a while but with him away down the street, I took advantage by reaching over the fence and pulling the weeds that were spitting seeds into the lot. I didn't have a bag for the unburnable trash so left it there for another day.   My friend came back shaking her head and I could hear Mori-san still shouting in the distance. She offered to take the second bag I had managed to fill during the ruckus,

The tulips were finished and the salvias are beginning to come up along the fence to the south.
Now I am half-way finished with the second row of the alphabet. The morning sweeping is done as the rain has stopped and a wind from the south is blowing those messy anise leaves up past my gate.
I shall leave poor Mori-san alone for a while. I sure do wish there was an easy way to tell when he is out so I wouldn't upset him but he hardly ever leaves his apartment.

How nice it is to have quilting and activities to fill the days so one doesn't have to sweat the small stuff.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Not a weak week!

Last weekend it was back to the woods with the guys, this time to lead the "Brotherhood Walk" for the Order of the Arrow.

The trail I take the "brothers" on is very seldom used ... probably only by my lead walks several times a year ... and I have to make at least two walks to clear a path under, around, or through fallen trees and dispose of branches and logs across the narrow path.

Aside from scratched arms, the day went well and I stayed to attend an Eagle Board of Review, (being a convenient opportunity as there were several other members of the council advancement committee there for the weekend.) I did not stay for the feast and it was already late when I returned home.

Sunday after church, was our second to last rehearsal for "Choir Sunday" coming up this week.

Monday I left home at 4:00 as usual for rice delivery but when I got to church for picking up the onigiri, there was nothing in the cabinet. The building was locked up tight so I could only turn around and drive back home. As it turned out, the rice was put in the fridge because Sunday had been very hot and the team was afraid of it spoiling over night. No one moved it out in the evening when it cooled off. Two hours wasted and I had to drop off Nikko with her breakfast and rush out the door to school.

Tuesday was even busier. I had to bring the car around from my parking space and unload all the camping gear from the back ... plus the craft items that still remained from Cub camp. Then it was off to find a station I had never driven to ... to pick up Norie and Hiro and Wally Higgins, as we were scheduled to make another rescue run to his garden in Shizuoka. Driving on unknown roads is a big challenge to me and I have to admit at least every trip takes me on at least one "scenic" lap.

Though our start was through rush-hour traffic, we made it pretty far along the highway and decided to stop for an early lunch while the heavy traffic cleared. Above is the view of Fuji from our lunch table.

With Wally riding shotgun, the only scenic routs were the intended ones, but Mt. Fuji and the hills of tea bushes and the fresh new greenery were scenic enough.
At Wally's garden we all lit into an active rescue of what might be saved.

Hiro set to digging up flagstone from the garden paths and filled the area in front of the back seats with big heavy rocks. Norie set out to collect more Spanish moss from the trees and plants from the garden. Some for herself and some for friends.

My goal was bringing back hanging pots that I can put on the walls surrounding my own garden ... partly to hide the ugly cement blocks and also for garden space. I also collected multiple hooks for hanging planters and some really nice pots that I just couldn't let pass. There were lots of ceramic pots which I prefer to the plastic ones that things seem to come in these days, but looking at what Norie was setting outside the car, I decided to leave them behind.

Wally led me to a few orchids attached to trees that we had missed the last trip and they are now clinging to a new location. I filled up the space behind the back row of seats with several boxes of things I wanted. Oh, there were a few hanging plants as well, but now I have all those hooks so why not something to hang on them?

Finally I was beginning to get a little anxious about the amount of vegetation piling up beside the van and afternoon was coming to a close. I had thought of taking the train back to Tokyo and letting Hiro drive to their place and return the car later ... but he was tired from moving rocks and I am unfamiliar with the bus and trains I would need to return home ... and would miss my evening meeting anyway, so decided to drive Norie and Hiro to their place, unload their items, and then find my way home.

We had some drinks of cool tea and latched on to some rescue items from the house.
Norie took this shot of Wally at his garden gate as we pulled out of the narrow space on to another narrow road around a rice paddy and onto the main road.

Even this foggy-looking shot shows his big garden and lovely vintage home. He has moved most of his things to Tokyo but is still making trips during the week to sort through what still remains before the house is sold. It is most probable that whoever buys the property will destroy the house and garden to put in a modern building. I wonder if I could ever leave such a house and garden and can well imagine how glad he is for items going to new homes where they will be loved and cherished.

We made it to Tamagawa Gakkuen using my google map on the mobile phone with Norie's help and Hiro resting in the middle seats among the containers filled with plants.

Everything got unloaded from the middle and rear seat areas in good season and Norie set the phone map with voice instructions for finding my way home in the dark.

It was much more of a "scenic" route home ... just to get back to the highway ... only too dark to enjoy the scenery. The voice would say, "turn right, then right again" so I would get over into the right lane and when I reached the intersection it would say, "turn left". Finally I found the highway and could ignore the voice the rest of the way.

I got the items unloaded at my gate and the camping gear back into the rear where my boxes had been. Nikko was glad to see me and jumped into the car for the ride back to my parking space.
When we returned home, the phone was ringing and Norie was calling with worried voice to see if I made it home, saying my first turn when I left their place was in the wrong direction. (so much for the voice instructions)!

Well, it was way past my bed time and Wednesday was a work day ... walk and feed the dog and hit the station by 6:15.

After school, there was a lovely late "Appreciation lunch" for the teachers and staff given by the parents, so instead of departing I stayed and enjoyed the festivities and talking with my fellow teachers with whom there is seldom time for a chat during a normal  day.

After a week of hot sunny days and time for ME, Thursday turned out to be rainy.

My first goal was to find places to put the goodies that were now in my care. There was a whole day of "musical pots" something like musical chairs without the music... That came in the evening during out final choir practice.

The little pink-white cactus flower in the picture above was blooming to the right of the azalea bushes along the east side of the house.

I had set those cacti there to discourage the local cats from using the soil for their business (however, in the small space by the lily, seen with multiple buds, was a large deposit of cat poop.

Above the garden gate the biwa are beginning to ripen.

And, as I sorted through the pots on the step below the gate leading into the garden, I noticed a few volunteers coming up.

Maybe I will put them in pots and take them to camp to plant.
I'm sure the wild birds would enjoy the ripening fruit .

In a hanging pot on the gate, I found this succulent beginning to bloom.

This was a rescue from an earlier trip to Wally's garden.

Since it is a new plant to me, I am always surprised by when or how  ... or even if ... things will bloom.

The Easter cactus sitting outside my third floor greenhouse on top of the air conditioner unit has finally decided to bloom.
Maybe it was waiting for the orchid in the background to finish up.

My plants don't seem to like competition.

And, just on the other side of the window, another spiky succulent,
that was an even earlier rescue from Wally's house , has put out spikes in every direction of these tiny flowers.

Thursday turned out to be another crammed day of getting things settled amid the showers and ending with choir filling up what was left of the day (and evening).

Today I must do laundry and it can be hung inside.

Meanwhile, this is really a quilting blog and with new babies coming like the spring rain, I have measured and marked and cut an alphabet quilt for the next customer.
Yesterday during a rain-break, I laid out the pieces to find a good order of colors to go with the prints. I have only now to choose the fabrics for the alphabet and get a good balance of color, then I can begin  stitching the blocks together. If the rain continues through the day, I may have something to show before another week flies by.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Remembering Mom

Mother's day has come and gone.

The weekend was crammed with activities, and I didn't have much time to reflect on the occasion.

Often a highlight of my weekend is a visit on Skype or Facetime with one or two or more of my children (and sometimes grandchildren)

As a mother of six, plus the sons and daughters-in-law, and a fine selection of "Kids-on-loan,"I have been overly blessed.

To my own parents, I was a trial most of my life, the black sheep that was "never going to to amount to a hill of beans".
This is the last picture of my mom, taken in 1983 with my dad.

By that time, my own wonderful children were beginning to show that, though I might be lazy and stupid, I had managed to raise an exceptional group of kids. How proud my parents would have been, were they alive last week, to hear the news that my daughter, Marie, had been selected by the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women, as one of the Commonwealth's "Unsung Heroines in 2017" Selected as "A woman who, without fanfare or recognition, uses her time, talent, spirit, and enthusiasm to enrich the lives of others"
In a ceremony at the Massachusetts State House next month she will receive a citation from the Governor.

This news put a special glow to my weekend, and indeed the days that follow.
Friday I was off to "Cub Camp", where I was to manage the leather working station for the Saturday program.
After an evening of prep work, I woke to the sound of rain. Well, rain had been expected. The crafts went well, as did the rest of the activities. My pack cleaned up on the awards in spite of the weather and after a box-oven cake, I departed the campsite so that I could make an early departure on Sunday for choir. I had to warn members too keep a distance because I was still reeking of campfire smoke.

Norie and family showed up for a dinner to celebrate the day and I have been enjoying the leftovers.
With Leia, we had some good rounds of a game of number twelve dominoes. (using the old set I once played with my granddad.)

As for quilting, it runs in the genes.

This "Storm at sea" quilt was made for me by my mother.

Believe it or not, I was allowed to chose the pattern and storm at sea remains one of my all-time favourites.

The strange thing is, though I also chose the fabric, I hate pink.
I selected it because I was such a tom-boy and I thought I should have something a bit more feminine.
Actually, green and blue were the colors I liked best and probably would have made a spectacular quilt.
By now I now know how much love goes into a quilt and the hidden blessings.(and maybe hopes that someday I would straighten out and fly right.) It is a piece of my mom's love that was there all along.

This morning, on the step-tansu above my bed, the orchid cactus had begun to bloom.

This one has become so big and top-heavy that I worry about it falling off the step.

Having been on the run since Friday, it was time to make the rounds with the watering can.

I notice several other cacti in bloom and a few that were "stealth-bloomers" while I was out in the woods playing with the boys.

Two cacti above the white cat have flowers  and this halo of pink has been the start of the blooming season for many years.

It needs re-potting as it keeps growing toward the sun in the south and no matter how often I rotate the pot, it is in dnger of tipping over as it leans.

Trouble is, that is a spiny little sucker ... and I don't know how to go about re-potting it. Maybe I need to take it to a store that sells those and get advice.

Another orchid has begun to open outside my garden door.

This one is a rescue and just tucked in among the spiked fronds of my umbrella palm.

The Spanish moss also came with the orchid.

There are a couple dozen more flower buds getting ready to follow.

And ... hanging from my laundry pole, is another item rescued from the same garden as the orchids.

It looks like  it might be some kind of begonia.

Behind it is a very heavy ball of Staghorn Fern.
That was an earlier rescue from the same garden and luckily made it through the winter. ... I think I brought it in a few days when we had snow, and hung it from the shower curtain bar.
It seems to be happy here outside my window.

Tonight I caught the train home as usual, around 8:pm ... and as usual it was a sardine can with barely any room for one's body above the feet.

We rode one stop and at that station, everyone was required to get off. The train stood empty a while and finally took off  and as trains came and went in the other direction, the platform became more and more crowded.

Finally, another train pulled in. Of course it was already crammed with people and since I was one of the last off the earlier train, standing in the front, I was shoved into the already packed car by those waiting behind. There weren't even enough hand-grips to accommodate that multitude of commuters.
Hard to believe that there are times when I can actually sit and do a bit of piecing during my rides into town and back.
No explanation of why the train was removed from service so I will probably never know.

Well, time to give Nikko her late night walk and take out the trash for tomorrow's collection, and get my stuff laid out for school tomorrow. That is one routine that isn't likely to be interrupted.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Happy Children's day!

When my boys were small, we had  a wonderful display set in our large entry-way of all these items.

It was then called Boy's Day and some of the display, like screens made from arrows standing in a wooden frame, Samurai armour, carp streamers and weaponry had belonged to my husband when he was a child.  This printed banner  has Girl's Day decorations on the back and is a lot easier to take out and set up. Maybe I need to make a quilted version . I do have a printed carp table runner somewhere.

Nikko and I set out in the morning to find real carp streamers flying in the light breeze. As we walked through the back streets of town and peered down each cross street, we found NOTHING. My, how customs have changed over the years I have lived in this part of town where once long strings of streamers were seen flying over fields and above rooftops. 

These are the only streamers we found, flying from a pole inside a temple gate. (among the power lines).

On the way home, we passed the vet hospital and I noticed it was open. I stopped in to ask about Nikko's vaccination I had missed, as the day set for my area, I was at work all day. Usually Nikko goes to the park with me and gets her vaccination for rabies and a registration tag for the year. The vet said if I brought the postcard, she could get her shot and registration right there, so that is what we did. She got tested for heart-worm and was issued pills to take through mosquito season. Dog care is not cheap but nice to know Nikko is in good shape for such an old dog. She is also a better weight now that Paul is not slipping her  treats of people-food.

Since the sun was out, I decided to take my Ohio Star quilt to the park for a picture. for some reason I did not have a digital picture among my collection. 

This is called, "Ohio Star too far east for too long". It is all made out of vintage Japanese fabrics. This was made in 1995 and I notice one of the very light woven fabrics has deteriorated in several pieces. I don't think I can take it apart but I wonder if I could applique some other fabric over the worn spots. What would you do?

The backing is made out of Tenugui ... a lot of Kabuki prints and a few others picked up on travels here and there. 

The rest of the day, I wasted looking for my bagpipe practice chanter. I have not played my pipes since moving back to Toshimaen, as there is no place I might play without disturbing the whole neighborhood. I knew where it was before moving but look as hard as I could, all I could find was dust and more dust. Gee, I would hate to have something happen to me and my children to come here and see such a dusty place. Well, the windows are open and the dust storms are coming in from China. Keeping surfaces clean for even one day is a challenge ... and that dust had been gathering in some of those corners for years. Well, I guess I don't have a dust allergy anyway. (and for all the good it did, I at least wiped the surfaces clean).

Anyway, I really can't think of any other place to look, and I had been asked to play it with a choir piece. I suppose I will now be lying awake at night wondering where that chanter went. Maybe to the trunk room with some other things. I think it was in the piano bench and we gave the piano to the church because of lack of space. I can't recall if the bench went to storage or was given away. I found a gold metal won at a competition and some new reeds given me by a cousin and never used... but chanter is a mystery, and half a day wasted.

Since, when I turned 50, I began subtracting each year, I am now on the brink of my second childhood. Soon I can start blaming my lack of knowledge on my youth.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Feeling lazy

With a string of holidays lined up, I have been just puttering around ... not doing much of anything and a lot of nothing.

We have had a few nice sunny days and that kind of weather lures me outside.

I had plants that needed re-potting and a bit of weeding and trimming of bushes

The little carp streamer has been dancing in the breezes outside my front door.
This one I selected is less fancy than some of the dyed fabrics. The eyes are just fused with big blanket stitches around the border and the tail has also been turned with large stitches.

I wanted to get some pictures of traditional carp streamers flying and the best place for that is a nearby school ground but with school out for Golden week, they may have been taken down early.

I do have a set of traditional carp in my cupboard but since that door is so hard to put back in place, I have hesitated to take them out. When the kids were small we set up a tall bamboo pole topped with a set of wheels that rotated in the wind and a long banner at the top. The big carp was for the father and the smaller ones for the sons.

The newspaper had a picture of a wide field of carp being flown in Tohoku, one for each child lost in the earthquake and tsunami. Tanya had better luck finding carp streamers to photograph. Look here!

The iris outside the front gate didn't bloom last year but seem to be making up for lost time.

This picture is a bit washed out as the tips of the petals are a soft purple.

he lilies are getting ready for a show and this year there are a lot of volunteers as well.

The gardenia is setting out plenty of buds but it is looking a bit sad because of the leaves that had a caterpillar attack in the fall.

Nikko has gone into her mega-shedding mode ...
The one where the under hair comes out in big fluffy tufts.
I'm sure it was kicked off by my heavy cleaning attack on Tuesday, running the vacuum and dusting and polishing all over the house.

I should take her out in today's breeze and give her a work-over but she really hates being brushed or combed. I recall with longing, my Mom's dog, Kimberly, who used to throw herself in front of the vacuum cleaner to get a going over before you could do the floors. Nikko has issues with the vacuum too. Now she leaves the room when it comes out but several years ago she escaped to another floor entirely until called down after the offending item was safely put away.

 The mola is moving slowly. It is rather strange with the dark green in the edge rather than the lighter one. The light has a slight print and I wanted it to show more but neither really shows up as planned.

Rather than take it all apart and start over, I will keep at it. Can I blame the turtle for being slow?

Tomorrow the choir is gathering to attend the funeral of the mother of our long-time organist. Because of the long string of holidays there will be no choir practice in the evening.
We are working on the music for "choir Sunday", coming next month. These pieces make me feel like I have been doing verbal push-ups. There is a challenge to memorize  the pieces, and for most music, that is easy for me ... but these pieces are challenging just looking at the music and sometimes I have to decide if I will be watching the notes or the words because they are racing by so fast I can't see both. I had better do some of those push-ups at home. (not as easy as quilting while watching TV).