Japan has many favorite words and phrases. Motainai is one of them.

If I were to translate it -it means something like “waste not want not” but …a little different. You can use the word in a variety of ways. I use the word quite frequently because it kind of fits my frugal personality. Actually, it really fits my frugal personality.

When we moved into this house it was full of furniture, dishes, futons and everything in between. My husband’s- brother’s- wife’s (how’s that for a mouthful) parents owned this home (now deceased) so we were able to pick and choose what we wanted-the rest was dumped! You have no idea what a blessing it was to us as we left most of our earthly possessions behind in Saipan.

I think I kept more than what we actually needed. There was this old wardrobe that I kept because I thought it might come in handy someday. It sat around bothering me for a while …and then…I needed a sewing space.

Living in such a small house it was hard for me to decide where I was going to set up my sewing corner. I moved it around here and there-the clutter bothered me. Clutter in a small space makes me feel tired.

Then I had an idea-!

The wardrobe is actually 2 pieces. The section where you hang clothes rests on top of 2 drawers and comes off. So-I took off the top section and removed the hanging bar. It was then basically just a big wooden box.


I bought a piece of wood from the do-it-yourself shop and used “L” brackets to install a shelf.


I purchased the organizers from Daiso and –viola–a sewing space! The drawers sit on the opposite wall and hold my material. I made a patchwork curtain for the whole thing and it hides everything inside. I just started putting it together. After I get the other organizers in I’m sure it will be perfect.

Small space living can be a challenge.



A Frugal Christmas…

We celebrate Christmas. Although history and Biblical scholars say that Christ was not born on December 25th – it is the day that the Christian world celebrates our Lord’s birth. You may or may not agree. That’s OKAY. For us, having moved to Japan which is around 1% Christian it gives us an opportunity to share Christ with others.

We do give gifts to our grandchildren and our children….of which we have MANY. The last I counted we had 28 grandchildren with one more on the way. We try to give everyone a little something. This year is a bit more difficult than other years so I decided that the gift theme is “It’s a Daiso and homemade Christmas” !

Daiso is the Japanese version of the dollar store but WAY better. You can actually find some cool, fun and interesting things at Daiso.

I’m also crafting things. Each item has grandma’s heart woven into it. I found some inexpensive blanket material that I put a crochet edging around. I’m going to make little flowers to sew to the four corners.

I used a roll of Caron Cakes and made a crochet bag. When I was in the states my grandson and his wife sent me a surprise package of several rolls of the “latest” yarn fad..Caron it!


Ive got a scarf in the works from another roll of Caron Cakes and I’m making tea wallets…that’s just a start. Every bit of spare time and then some will be spent in gramma’s Christmas workshop.


Even though it takes a lot of time and hard work I love making gifts for my family. My daughter told me a story about one of my granddaughters. I had made her a crochet bag several years ago and she hauled that bag everywhere telling everyone that her gramma made it for her and that there was no other bag like it. She valued it because I made it. That really touched my heart. It made me think of the old days…when handmade items were treasured.

I have several items that are hand crafted by my mother and my aunt. Every time I hold these items I recall memories of them. My aunt is no longer living but her memory lives on in my heart and through the items she lovingly made for us.

Christmas decor has caught on here. We were at the farmer’s market last weekend and they had this big display at the entrance.


The mall has a huge tree set up with lots of decorations through out the halls and stores.


We like hanging out at the mall during this time of the us a feeling of “normalcy”. My husband loves Christmas. It was through celebrating Christmas throughout the years that he learned about Christ and after years of thinking, watching and praying privately (I had no idea what was going on in his mind) he decided to give his life to Christ.

Tomorrow is the first Sunday of advent so we are looking forward to celebrating it with our church family at Christ Church.

Life has changed so much from when we first moved here. So many blessings have been given. I am truly thankful.


Patchwork Curtains and random scenery

There are times when I feel completely exasperated with things. Like right now. It’s silly stuff, nothing big really.

I’m sure the ladies (maybe a few guys) will be able to relate.

I really want to fix up our home a bit but there are so many issues….to move or not to move is the first and foremost issue. At the moment the move is on hold as Okasan has made a miraculous recovery and it seems no one need panic right now. Anyhow-we really would rather not move now…and then move again in the future.

The second issue is finances. We really don’t want to pour a lot of money into a place that we know is temporary.

But…….it’s driving me nuts not to be able to do much. I mean, it’s a great little old Japanese house. It needs repair in some areas that we must take care of or else we won’t be able to use a room or two. The wood used for the flooring was really thin plywood and it’s spongy in areas. If we don’t fix that soon we will fall right through the floor into the crawl-space under the house.

I made some very simple plans for a small organized sewing / craft area. There was furniture in the home and I kept a big wardrobe that I’m going to put shelves in to make it more functional. I’m really big on using what I have.

The wardrobe will be the central piece and plywood work counters will be made around it-or on the side, depending.

I’ve also stumbled upon several websites with tutorials and ideas on using fabric to spruce things up. I’ve fallen in love with patchwork curtains! I looked at them and I thought….hummm….what a cute way to brighten up rooms. I have some plans to make a few for open cabinet cover-ups and table skirts.

Pinterest is my friend. Have you done any cheap redecorating? Any ideas?

The pictures in the slideshow below are random “out of the car window” shots I took today on the way to the doctor’s office. They are raw-unedited and sorta blurry….but the scenery is beautiful!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.