Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Buying Fleas and Watching Bears

When we left the house yesterday morning, I was sure I would not be buying any fleas.  It was a holiday and Ted had the day off, so we took the bus, then the subway to Nakajima Koen in Sapporo.  I read in the Hokkaido International Women’s Association newsletter that there would be a flea market there.  Ted often went to the flea market at the NC State Fairgrounds when we lived in the US.  I thought it might be fun to see in Japan, but I wasn’t interested in buying anything.  Or so I thought.


(these are plastic)
All I asked was “Kore wa ikura desu ka?”  The man’s answer was one for 100 yen and three for 200 yen.  The money was out of my pocket, and these cute little cakes that are really little towels were mine.

Before the morning was gone, I had also purchased this little Minnie Mouse lunch box for 150 yennies and these little flowered handkerchiefs to send to Ted’s mom for 20 and 30 yen.

Ted found this tiny hot air popcorn maker for 250. (Now we need to buy some popcorn!)

Even though I hadn’t planned on buying any fleas, it was entertaining and I was pleased with my purchases. We left Nakajima Park and went to Mauyama Park next, stopping for lunch at a place called Omoide Grill.  Ted had the lunch setto with seafood gratin, salad, soup, a fried shrimp, a tablespoon of potato salad, spaghetti, and hambarg (kind of like a meatloaf hamburger).  I had the seafood gratin.

Next stop – the Maruyama Zoo. We have really gotten our money’s worth out of the year’s zoo pass we bought last fall. The main thing we wanted to see yesterday was the polar bear twins that were born in December. Aren't they the cutest little bears you've ever seen?

The red pandas have a brand new place to live that is very nice.

The zoo is so much fun!

When we left the zoo and walked across Maruyama Park on our way to get to the subway, we heard some children yelling “Kitsune, kitsune!”  A fox ran right across our path!

We had a great day and returned home tired.  No yo-yo’s were completed yesterday. Today's another day.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Point Cards and Kimono-wearing Women

Nearly every store or service place in Hokkaido has a “Point Card”. If you don’t have one, the clerk will ask if you want one, so of course, you end up with one. I have a few of them – the two fabric stores (Pandora House and Kanariya), the Indian restaurant, Haruki grocery store, and Mr. Donut.  Ted has a wallet full of them.


The problem is, I don’t know how much I need to spend to get a stamp or what I get when I fill the card. I had some points on the Mr. Donut card that expired because I didn’t go often enough.  Sometimes the clerk will tell you so you can use them.  Ted got a free donut one time and got a free DVD rental last week.


I never forget that I am in Japan, but when I am out and about and I see women wearing traditional Japanese clothing, I can’t help thinking -  I’m in Japan!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Week of Gold

The upcoming week is known as Golden Week in Japan.  There are four national holidays during the week, so many people take this week for vacation time.  This week is one of the three busiest times to travel in Japan, the others being New Year’s and the middle of August (Obon). April 29th is Showa Day, a day to reflect upon the events of the Showa period and to honor the former emperor. May 3rd is Constitution Day to commemorate the day Japan’s postwar constitution took effect.  May 4th is Greenery Day, a day to commune with nature and be thankful for one’s blessings. May 5th is Children’s Day, a day to esteem the personalities of children and plan for their happiness.  Because Children’s Day falls on a Sunday this year, the holiday is observed on Monday.

My English classes will not be held this week because of the holidays, so I have more time to stitch! My neighbor and I are currently working on a small crazy quilt project, but she is out of town for the week.  Here is a finished version of the project that I made many years ago. I call this a penny purse; she calls it a saifu (wallet).


We will be ready to start the embellishing when we meet next. This is my patchwork.

I plan to work on my new project this week. I think the yellow yo-yo’s I have been working on look like gold nuggets.  Appropriate for Golden Week, no?

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Circles and More Circles

Were you surprised by the fabrics I showed yesterday?  It’s true, the colors aren’t what I usually work with.  I tend to gravitate toward blues and cool colors. This is about as far away as one can get from my usual colors. I might add other fabrics and I’m sure I’ll need to add some embellishments.

So, what could I be making?  I saw a sort of shawl like thing on a mannequin in a store window in Sapporo a while back and have been thinking about it ever since.  It was bright and open and made up of circles.  I don’t know if it was an actual garment for sale or if it was just window dressing, but I liked it.  In Hokkaido, you have to wear a lot of thick, warm, functional, dull garments because it’s winter for such a long time.   I want to make a shawl of bright open colorful circles. We’ll see how it works out.

I tried out two different sizes of yo-yo’s for the circles, using my scrapbooking circles.  I decided on the smaller size, even though it means I’ll need more circles. My rough guess is that I’ll need about 350 circles, maybe more.  I have cut 300 so far.


I’m not done cutting circles, let alone making up the yo-yo’s and I’m already thinking about adding beads and other embellishments.

Friday, April 26, 2013

What We Need is a Little Bit of Color

The snow is melting, but it isn’t really spring yet.  I’ve seen a few crocus flowers that have popped up, but the trees aren’t budding out yet and there’s a lot of grey around.

It’s nice to get out and about and see what has been hidden by the snow.  Last fall, the temple across the street from the big shrine near city hall tore out their garden and rebuilt, but the snow fell before I could go back to see it.  We walked by there and had to take a look. It’s much nicer than it used to be.


I noticed this Jizo statue outside the walls has a ring of origami cranes around it. I don’t know why, but seeing things like this makes me so happy.


I finished what has been my train project since I’ve been in Japan – a stitch and zip kit.  I lined the stitching with a pale blue paisley print. What will I do on the train now? I have another of these teapot stitch and zip kits, exactly like the first.
I saw something recently that gave me an idea for a new project. It’s another one of those things where I don’t know just what I’m doing or how it will work; I’ve just got an idea.  Here are some of the fabrics I’ve pulled.  I think what we need is a little bit of color.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Japanese Names

Usually I’m pretty good with remembering names. When I meet someone, I repeat the person’s name in my head a couple of times and remember it.  Japanese names are a little more difficult for me to remember.  Japanese names that sound like something I can identify are easier to remember.  One popular girl’s name is Saeko, which sounds like the word Psycho in English. When I first arrived in Japan and wasn't as familiar with Japanese syllables, I thought I must be hearing incorrectly.  Another girl’s name is Yurin, which sounds to me like Urine. Yukiko is little (ko) snow (yuki).   I really try hard to learn my students’ names as fast as I can.

My class at the university is a unique language learning group, I think.  They’ve each had either seven or eight years of English before getting to my class, but they are definitely not at the same level. The reason I think the group is unique is because of the Outdoor Life environment.  OL students are small in number and they do everything together so they are very close and very comfortable with each other. A mixed group of students who didn’t know each other would not take the risk of speaking out and possibly making mistakes, like these students do. They don’t seem to mind laughing at themselves.  A couple of examples of things that happened last class – They were practicing introducing another person in the class to me and one student said “he is soccer team”.  I asked her, “he is the soccer team?” and she said yes.  She did not understand what I was asking, but her partner did.  He put his arms out like he was very big and said “Yes, I am very good.  I am the soccer team.” She then understood, and said he is on the soccer team.  Later they were telling me what they like to do on the weekend. They had many different answers, some very simple and others more descriptive. One told me what he liked to do during each season of the year on the weekend. (No one said I like to practice English on the weekend, though.)  One student said what I thought was, “I like to meet.”  Thinking the sentence wasn’t finished, I asked “Do you like to meet people?” She put up the big crossed arm sign and said no, no, no.  Come to find out, she meant to say she likes to eat meat. It became the ideal time to talk about words that sound alike, but are spelled differently and mean different things. I do like teaching here.

We haven’t been seeing as many of the pineapple birds lately.  We found out their name is Tsugumi and they are going back to Russia for the summer. We will miss them; they’ve been quite entertaining.

You’d think that between bird watching and preparing for English classes, I wouldn’t have time to stitch, but I do.  Here’s what I’ve been working on:

I have the individual pieces stitched and cut out.  Now I need to put it together with the lining fabric to make the little book.  I have three little needle pages, instead of the five shown on the pattern; the scissors cover and tiny strap to hold them in place; and another little cover for something else.  I’m not sure the other little something is going to work.  Stay tuned to see how it turns out……