Ajisai – hydrangea in English- a tsuyu season bloomer. These beauties are in my garden.

It’s the beginning of tsuyu or the rainy season in Japan. It is said that Japan actually has five seasons- spring, tsuyu, summer, autumn and winter. After having lived here now for over five years I’d say this is true.


Continue reading “Ajisai”

Yellow sand and other irritants

I had no idea of all the airborne irritants I’d have to battle before moving here. 

I’m an asthmatic and I also have allergies. In Saipan things were pretty much under control with only occasional issues. 

Not so here -thanks to the Takala Makan and Gobi deserts. Not to mention the Loess Plateau. 

During later winter and spring dust particles from the deserts are driven across Korea by westerly winds right smack over us here in Kyushu. 

The ” dust” or kousa as its called here- is nasty stuff. They have analysed it and found it to be a mix of minerals like quartz, fieldspar, mica and a few others. It also contains pollutants from Chinese factories. 

You can imagine how it feels living with this junk floating around you. It’s gritty and if I don’t know we are being bombarded by it because I can’t understand the radio broadcasts and no one tells me I soon realize it when my eyes feel like someone pepper sprayed me. 

You can feel the stuff on the floor or the furniture if you’ve had the windows open. 

This week was bad. Monday and Tuesday our eyes hurt so bad. I felt just like I had washed them in grit or Tabasco. 

It causes a number of ailments- sore throat, headache, sinus and respiratory issues, burning eyes and tiredness. Sometimes your skin itches. 

I finally figured out why I was feeling so poor this week ( duh) and today was much better with the windows closed and the AC on. 

I’ve got to go out tomorrow and I saw that the particulate matter is supposed to be in the orange and red zone- gah. 

Where is your sanctuary? 

Mine is here in my hodge-podge little garden. It’s my favorite place in the cool early mornings. It’s not very fancy or well ordered but, that’s ok. 

It is a reflection of my life in a way. A joining of odds and ends, growth, weeding out, planting new, watering….

Seedlings, mature plants, fading plants and eventually dead plants. I see my life here so many times. 

I talk to God here. I work through issues, I rejoice, contemplate, weep and rest here. 

I have learned to face reality and come to terms with life issues….in the stillness of my morning garden.

Just a walk….

I saw in the weather report that within a day or two it looks like our rainy season will begin. Today was such a beautiful day that I figured I’d better not waste it sitting in the house.

It was hot -around 85. To be honest I didn’t feel much like walking around but I knew it would be good for my mental health so-off I went.

Today I decided to go into the countryside instead of town.


Here is where I had to decide-go up the mountain or wander around in the farm area? I chose the farms. I wanted to see how everyone’s cottage gardens were doing and how far the farmers were with rice planting preparation.

Every little space is utilized. I saw that many plots were either being plowed or had been already. I think my FIL will begin planting next month.

I happened to spot an apiary.

IMG_2844I’ve meandered past this place before but never saw the beehives. I could see the bees swarming around their hives-actually I could hear them too and I had this overwhelming urge to walk over there.

Crazy, I know but despite being allergic to bees I love them.

Even if I wasn’t allergic to them I still wouldn’t really walk over there…I am pretty sure the farmer wouldn’t appreciate me doing that. It makes me wonder though-who owns them? I’d love to buy some honey!

This area is pretty well in the boondocks, a place I’d love to own a house.

IMG_2847Cottage gardens everywhere.

IMG_2862 Not far from the ancient pond where I sometimes linger and listen to the frogs…and watch the fish bob up out of the murky depths to gulp a bug that was floating on the surface.


This is a good place to wander and think…



I wandered all the way around this area and then decided to trek over to the tea shop on the other side of the valley-a fair distance. It took me about an hour from here just to get there but it was on the way home-sorta.

I had a hankering for a matcha-soft cream. The tea shop is fairly large and sells home-made foods from around the area. I saw honey while I was there…expensive though. I didn’t buy it because it was heavy and I had my bag and camera with me. On foot you’d be surprised how heavy a small item becomes after a few minutes.

I ate my matcha-soft cream and gazed over the valley. I had a lot to think about today.


I spent a few minutes resting and then headed down the road for home-about a 40 minute walk.

Now the rains can come.

Tutorial for CraftyTokyoMama…

As promised to my dear friend CraftyTokyoMama I’m going to attempt to explain how my teacher transferred the pattern from the Japanese patchwork pattern book to the graph-board.

I say “board” because it isn’t paper -it’s more like thin cardboard. And I say “attempt” because….well…that’s what it will be-an attempt.

Anyone else that wants to read along is more than welcome.

Okay-here we go. Below is a close-up of the “house” patchwork pattern. Please take note of the “numbers” below the roof. Let’s begin on the left side-there is a number 5 then number 3 (with a number 1 above and below it), then 5, 5, and so on all the way to the right side.

These sections or pattern pieces are measured in 2cm squared. Look at the number “1” above and below number “3”. Those are 2cm squared blocks.


Now let’s take a look at the graph-board. See how sensei drew out the pattern on the board-look at the number “1” pieces and note that they measure 4 little squares each (each of the 4 little squares has 4 even smaller squares in it-16 tiny squares total-if that makes sense). Those 4 little squares equal 2cm squared.

Now look at the number “5” sections and note that they measure FIVE of these “number one squares” or 5 x 2 cm squared- or 5 2cm squared “boxes” make up the #5 strip.


The first thing that sensei did was to draw out the bottom of the house. The roof is sectioned out in to letters because it has slants in it and the sections aren’t measured in even 2cm squares. You can determine where to start drawing the roof lines after you have finished with the bottom sections.

Next on the pattern book page are diagrams that show which sections are stitched together-in what order. Number 1 shows that you stitch -A,1,4,1 together. Just as a note-that last “A” on the right end is part of the backing fabric-we chose that already so she had me stitch it to #1 …in other words – she had me stitch that whole first row together. In the diagram the last” A ” is separate.

You just follow the photos and stitch the pieces together as shown. After you have the sections stitched together you sew the entire thing together and viola! Your house patchwork block is assembled! But I’m sure that part you already know! Well- I hope that this explanation was not too confusing. As time goes on and I work on different patterns if I find something different or new-I’ll let you know!

I hope this helped…maybe?

She taught me a trick. After you have cut the pattern out you can use a piece of felt to lay the pieces on so they don’t get all mixed up. She assembled the pieces on the felt and then covered them with paper (like a big piece of tissue wrapping paper) so that they would not get messed up. Then she folded the whole thing up so that I could carry it home to work on. See previous post to see what I mean.

By the way-she said Daiso carries the graph board.




Learning Japanese Patchwork

I have come to deeply appreciate all the little things that make up my life’s tapestry. Today was no exception.

After ladies group and chores I scooted down to the quilt shop- a brisk 15 minute walk from our house which is awesome because I love to squeeze in exercise where-ever I can.

The sensei greeted me warmly and introduced me to my “classmate” -a wonderfully kind older woman who was working on a beautiful green patchwork quilt.

I wasn’t sure what to bring besides my sewing kit so I lugged about half of the fabric that I have in my sewing drawer along with me. Turns out that it was actually a good idea because the project that I thought I was going to make (a free pattern I downloaded from Craftsy) turned out to be something that I could work on later. Sensei had my lesson structured already-cool! I felt really comfortable with her because she knew exactly where I needed to start.

I can “sew” but I’ve never had any formal training and as I found out today, there are a lot of basics that I need to learn.

The first thing we did was discuss what I really wanted to do for a first project. She helped me discover that what I really wanted was to learn Japanese patchwork-something that I really admire and think is totally awesome.

Next we narrowed it down to exactly what I wanted to make for a first project. I remembered a tote that I had seen when I visited her shop the other day that has patchwork houses on it. Sorry-not a good photo.


I wanted to make patchwork house blocks and she agreed that, skill-wise, it was a good first project. Well, actually…I wanted to make the mini bird quilt she has on display but she said that was really a bit too complicated for me and would probably only frustrate me.

She’s wise. Best to start with something that I can actually do and have fun making.

She hauled out the pattern book so that I could learn how to draw a pattern from a book. She made something that could have driven me nuts -had I tried to figure it out alone–  simple.  I was actually able to follow along.

She doesn’t speak English and my Japanese is so-so. This is actually quite a challenge for me on so many levels. It’s a challenge for her too but she has such a neat personality that both of us enjoyed even the challenge of trying to communicate.

There was a lot of laughing happening. Awesome-I love laughter.

The whole while sensei and I were doing our thing -the other student seemed to be enjoying listening and joining in our fun.



We got the pattern drawn together. She helped me mark it all according to the fabric that I chose. I was thankful I hauled so much fabric with me because it gave me a good selection to choose from.


Next step was to cut out the pieces of the pattern. For a few minutes the cut up pieces got all scrambled up and we had to figure it out…that was my fault.


She lent me this “sticky” board to lay the fabric on while I traced the various pieces. It was really a handy tool and I ended up buying one from her. She sells all sorts of sewing notions and gives students 10 % discount. I have to say that having traced patterns onto fabric before I knew that this tool was something that would really help. The fabric stays put while you trace.

Even if you sneeze.

We arranged the fabric pieces onto a piece of felt-like fabric so that while I was working on them I wouldn’t have to re-assemble the lot every single time. Knowing me I would probably get something mixed up and end up having to re-cut a piece or use the seam ripper. I hate using a seam ripper.

She also sells that felt patchwork-piece holder but… I wonder if Daiso has something I can use. I’ll have to look.

She had me begin sewing the pieces together and she taught me the proper technique. I found out that all these years I’ve been sewing the wrong way. Her technique really was much better than the way I had always tried to hand sew.

So-I have homework- sew the pieces together. My next lesson is week after next. I have 2-2hour lessons per month. With my schedule right now that’s just right.

She is a gem-funny, patient, kind and very skillful. I have a feeling this is going to be much more than just learning patchwork.

My classmate said that she was thrilled I had joined …she had so much fun! I’m glad I could liven up the party!  🙂

So thankful! So very much to be thankful for-really.

Why I Write

WordPress has a number of awesome challenges, workshops and writing activities for its bloggers. Here and there I see something that interests me so I participate. Right now there is a 20 day challenge going on that I want to try although I’m not sure if I’ll take up all 20 challenges in a row. I’ll probably write at my own pace.

The first writing prompt in the challenge is:

Why Do You Write?

The answer to that question wells up from a place where I go…that no one else (but God) can access. That probably sounds strange to some and yet others are nodding their heads.

There is so much that happens to me internally and writing  is a way for me to express at least some of it. I can’t help but write. I have to. I carry some type of writing instrument with me- always. I panic if I leave home without a pen or a pencil and a small notebook.

In an emergency an eyebrow pencil and the back of a receipt will do.

I’ve written a young readers novel. That came out of my imagination and actually – dreams I’ve had. I wrote that during NaNoWriMo. Some of the most fun I’ve ever had! That story just flowed out of me. It’s still sitting in raw form- just the way it came out of my fingers. I should edit it but everything else gets in the way…

But- that’s why I write. I can’t help but write. It’s a part of who I am.

I’m a writer in my DNA.