Thursday, May 31, 2012

Japanese Toilet Paper

We drove to the big city (Sapporo) for the first time last night.  By that I mean Ted drove and I rode. The reason for our trip was to go to the Big American Store, Costco. Costco has all the things you don’t find in the Japanese store, either because it’s not there or because it isn’t packaged in a way we can recognize.  Being illiterate doesn’t help. Sometimes the Japanese version of what we want just isn’t what we are used to getting.  Take toilet paper for example.

Kirkland is the Cosco store brand and the toilet paper is two ply and “quilted”, like the toilet paper we know in the US.  Japanese toilet paper is thin and the squares are twice as long as they are wide.

Check out this article and video on Costco toilet paper .  Toilet paper is Costco’s top selling product.  Can you believe that? Costco sells $40 million in their Kirkland toilet paper.  If it weren’t good, would that many people be buying it?  Now you know why we go to Sapporo to buy toilet paper.

Scrapbooking leads to English Lesson
Yes, I still have the scrapbooking mess, I mean project, out.  It led to part of this week’s lesson. I took seven random photos to class and taped them to the walls around the room.  I had the students, working in pairs, look at the photos and write two sentences in English about each photo.  They could use their English/Japanese dictionaries, but had a limited amount of time to write their two sentences about each photo. Some sentences were basic but accurate sentences, such as “There are three grandmothers near the water.” for a photo of Ted’s mother and two of her relatives at the family reunion near the lake. In other sentences, their observations were keen, such as “It happened in the fall.” for a photo of a person in front of a tree with yellow and brown leaves. Or, “The photo is from America.” in a picture with a US flag flying in the background. Some sentences were not so accurate, and were funny, but it made them think.

Doc Watson
Legendary folk and blue grass musician, Doc Watson, died in North Carolina at age 89.  We were fortunate to be able to see him perform several times in the last few years, most recently at the North Carolina Museum of Art in North Carolina. He will be missed.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The New Scrapbook Table

I haven’t been able to work on my scrapbook albums much since coming to Hokkaido because I haven’t had a space to work on them. Album making isn’t something I can do for a couple of hours, then put away.  Leaving it out would have interfered with our meals, since we only had one small table in the apartment. Saturday I found this wonderful table, perfect for scrapbooking and have been working on my photo projects ever since.

Because of the new album making table, I haven’t made any further progress on the More Options hardanger piece.  Maybe I’ll get back to it next week…..

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

This Week Wednesday is Friday

Friday this week is a University holiday, celebrating the anniversary of the beginning of the school, so there are no classes. Because of Golden Week, classes on Monday, Thursday, and Friday are a week behind the Tuesday and Wednesday classes. Instead of making Friday classes an additional week behind with this week’s holiday, Wednesday’s classes are replaced with Friday classes.

Last Friday we didn’t get to everything I had planned for class because some things went longer than I expected, so I need work on my plan for tomorrow, which will be Friday even though the calendar says Wednesday.  Last week half the class explained aloud how to make their favorite foods.  This week the other half will.  I was pleasantly surprised by how detailed their recipes were. They went all out for this assignment and I think several of them are really chefs. Recipes are great for vocabulary – ingredients, measurements, and food preparation words (verbs like mix, chop, beat, fry, etc.) Explaining the directions out loud is also a great way to learn pronunciation lessons.  One student was talking about making a duff. I asked her what a duff is and she showed me the recipe – the word she was trying to say was dough and she pronounced it like rough!  This led to an explanation of the different ways “ough” can be pronounced. We’re going to make a class cookbook with the recipes.

I can hardly wait to find out what’s cookin’ with the rest of the class tomorrow.

Here's a picture of my recipe - French Toast with Fruit (made by Ted)

Monday, May 28, 2012

The After Hanami Party

Ted’s Aikido group held a Hanami party yesterday at a small park near where we live.  It didn’t matter that there were no longer any cherry blossoms.  It was a time to get together to eat and drink and enjoy the company of the others.

We made Oni Tamago (what we call deviled eggs) and walked to the park since no one can be driving after attending a Japanese party.

 It was the birthday of one man so everyone celebrated that too.

At an American cookout, the food is cooked and everyone fills a plate and eats a plate full.  Here meat and vegetables are put on the grill and people pull off the food with chop sticks, eating a little bit at a time all day long.

And don’t forget about the beverages.  It wouldn’t be a party without the beverages – beer, sake, shochu, sparkling wine, and some kind of Siberian alcohol.  Don’t even try to have an empty cup – someone will always be trying to fill it up.

Just in case you are wondering, there are still patches of snow here and there in Hokkaido.  Maybe it will be gone in June -?

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Big Gomi Day

Garbage (Gomi) is very organized in Hokkaido. All of the regular trash gets sorted and taken out on different days of the week and everything that can be recycled is recycled.  Twice a year the town has Big Gomi Day, where you can put out furniture and appliances and other big stuff.  It actually lasts about two months because they pick up a section of town each weekend. I’ve been told that it is an insult to offer your used stuff to someone else here because it implies that person can’t afford to buy it himself.  This seems totally opposite of the whole recycling thing, but as a result a lot of perfectly good stuff gets thrown out on Big Gomi Day. Not being able to read Japanese, we didn’t know when this event would happen for our area.  We found out yesterday that our Big Gomi pick up is this weekend.

I went to the library to return books yesterday afternoon and found out when I saw that people had already begun putting out their big gomi.  I saw a beautiful heavy, low table with legs that folded under.  It was awkward and heavy, but I was able to carry it the few blocks and three flights of stairs into the apartment. I opened it up and put out some scrapbooking stuff.  It’s perfect. Little did I know that was not the end of our gomi adventure.

When Ted came home from his run, he wanted me to come out and look at the big gomi for our apartment building.  There was a huge chest of drawers and matching armoire. The huge chest is actually three pieces – the base, a bottom set of eight drawers, and a top cabinet piece with five shallow inside drawers. By taking out the drawers and taking it apart, we were able to get it to the entrance to our apartment building.  Ted went to the university and borrowed a cart with wheels and we rolled the huge closet to our front door.  We got all the pieces of the chest up the stairs, but the armoire was too big to get up the stairs! I do love things that match, but this just wasn’t going to fit in the turns of the stairwell, so we had to return it to the gomi collection. Here is the chest of drawers put back together, showing the top opened and closed.

After all this it was late and we were tired, so we decided to eat at the moving sushi restaurant. Walking to dinner, we passed another gomi pile that had a big sturdy coat/umbrella rack. We picked it up on the way home for Ted’s office. We found a few other things we could carry and are very pleased to have other people’s trash as our treasures.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Little Purse

Okuda San and I finished the last stitching project before we scrapbooked last week so it is time for a new project. You must understand I’m not a needlework teacher or designer, I’m just trying to share what I love to do with my neighbor. This little purse project took me two days start to finish, working most of the day each day to complete.  I didn’t know exactly what it would turn out to be, but I’m pleased with how it turned out. 

I started with a Charles Craft 28 count even weave fabric in pale blue.  It comes in a tube and is sold at places like JoAnn’s and Hobby Lobby. I bought it on sale at some point and it works well for projects like this.  I’ve used the eyelet and the Rhodes stitches together when making ornaments and thought it would be a good combination for this. They look nice and fit together. With that and the idea of making a little coin purse, I started.

Using 8 perle cotton in DMC #798 (blue) I worked the eyelets. This stitch is not difficult but is the most time consuming part of this project.

Next I filled in the spaces with Rhodes stitches done with DMC silver thread that comes on a spool. I had to hold the piece at an angle to get the silver to show.

I did some compensating stitches around the edges.  I wasn’t real concerned with these because they end up in the seams.

It’s hard to see in the photo, but I used pale blue Mill Hill seed beads at the stitch intersections. I left the part that would be covered by the flap unbeaded so I could later sew a snap to it.

For the lining I used a slick dragonfly fabric from MaryJo’s in Gastonia, NC. I have this same fabric in four color combinations, but the blue is my favorite. I pinned the right side of the fabric to the right side of the stitching.

Using small stitches with white sewing thread, I followed the outline of the stitching.

 I cut away the excess fabric and turned it right side out then closed the flap with some small hidden stitches.

Using cording I made with the same perle cotton as the stitching, I closed the sides.  The cording could have been a little tighter, but it’s okay.

I added two snaps to keep the little purse closed and it was finished.

We’ll start working on this project next week.  I think she will like it.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Kyukyusha and the Biker Boys

We celebrated our 2/3 year anniversary this week by going to the sweet shop for cherry blossom soft ice cream cones.  As we left our apartment to walk to get ice cream, we saw there had been an accident at the corner of our block between an elderly man who was the driver of a car and a boy who had been on a bicycle. We knew the elderly man standing in the street was the driver of the car because the car had the elderly driver symbol in the window.  The bike was still in the street in front of the car and the biker boy was laying on the sidewalk, surrounded by other biker boys. The ambulance (kyukyusha) arrived and loaded the injured biker as we walked by.

We bought our ice cream at the shop several blocks away and walked back home.  When we got to the corner, there were five police cars, ten police officers, and the elderly man. The man was pointing and the police officers were measuring and taking notes. I noticed several police officers had guns that were attached to them by a wire or something.  No one can grab the gun and run away.  We didn’t see the accident happen, but I think it was probably the biker boy’s fault.  Since the snow melted, there have been swarms of students wearing school uniforms or athletic uniforms riding bikes. You rarely see anyone on a bike wearing a helmet here and the biker boys ride like there’s no one else around.  I’m guessing we’ll see more of these accidents.  I really felt bad for the old man.

These are cute little desserts at the shop where we bought the ice cream, but I’d choose the cherry blossom ice cream over these every time.

In other news in Hokkaido, we had another earthquake. It was 6.1 and centered in the ocean between Honshu and Hokkaido.  I slept through it all and didn’t find out there was an earthquake until I got up in the morning.

We go out to our farm each afternoon and water the plants that are there.  We still have some other things sprouting on the balcony and when they get a little bigger, we’ll move them out to the farm. Ted likes to say we are putting down roots in the community.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Elegant Emery

I’ve had this pattern, called Elegant Emery, for a very long time.  I think I acquired it when I was in the Indianapolis EGA chapter, but I can’t remember for sure. I bought the burgundy velour and the emery for the project and put them in a bag with the instructions, but that’s as far as I got with it. It was designed by Ellen F. Coyne with a Wisconsin address.

I pulled it out this week thinking it might be a stitching project that Okuda San and I could work on together. It’s small and only has three stitches – eyelet, four sided stitch, and buttonhole (not the blanket stitch, even though it is side by side stitches over four threads, just like More Options). I started it one evening and finished the next morning. The buttonhole stitch is done on an angle, changing direction, so I don’t think it is a beginner project.  It’d probably be best to learn the buttonhole or blanket stitch straight across first.   In addition, it’s a project that requires precision and it’s not easy to take out the pulled eyelet and four sided stitches if you make a counting mistake. The instructions called for tea dyed linen and ecru perle cotton #8 and #12. I had darker fabric, so I substituted DMC 640 in the two sizes of perle cotton because it matched and that was what I had.
Before cutting away the outside
The instructions were not clear in several places, but maybe the designer gave additional instructions if it was taught as a class. The instructions also said things like, stitch the ribbon to the emery.  Emery is like sand.  How can you stitch a ribbon to it?  I made a little muslin pouch to hold the emery, stitch the ribbon to, and put inside the velour.

The ribbon slid inside the center eyelet.

The corners were tacked to the velour and the little tassels stitched to the edges between the corners. I’m pleased with how it turned out and it was very quick to stitch up.  A stitcher can’t have too many little toolie things.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Stitching Break

This week, instead of stitching, Okuda San and I worked on a little scrapbook with pictures from her recent trip to Tokyo Disney Land with her sisters and their children. I have most of my life recorded in Creative Memories scrapbook albums and I’m always happy to help someone else record his or her memories. Names, dates, and stories are as important as the photographs and I was amazed to watch her journal in kanji!

Her son was napping while we were album making, but got to see the finished album when he woke up.

Next week we’ll be back to our regularly scheduled stitching.