Thursday, May 31, 2012

Baby quilt finished!

I finished the baby quilt I was making for my sweet shop friend's new grandson. Machine pieced and hand quilted. Pretty good timing. I think I started May 14th, so that's a little more than two weeks from start to finish.

This is a quilt that I bought fabric for while in the States last year and started cutting strips and sewing while there. But after a few strips I decided it was a waste of good (new) fabric when I could use all the fabric I had at home (in Japan) and the quilt would be more cheerfully scrappy. So that project got put aside (for 10 months!!!) When my friend's grandchild was born I raided my fabric bins and got started again.

Actually you can see where I started trying to coordinate fabric in the States and where I started to go scrappy (the bright colors are the scrappy) but probably nobody is going to see the line but me. I don't think my sweet shop friend cares one way or the other about patchwork.

For the back I had found some cute car fabric on sale at Ikea of all places, and I bought a few yards of that to use for a child's quilt backing... so this worked out perfectly.

I gave specific instructions to my friend that this is to be USED quilt; used for diaper changing, drooling on, having picnics on etc. It is not to be kept safe in a drawer somewhere or hung on a wall as a decoration. I hope I see it often on their laundry line!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Japanese vegetables

My neighbor gave me more of her hot house produce.

This is called chingensai... a type of Chinese cabbage. My neighbor was out cutting bunches to take to market and I ran into her at just the right point to receive a few bunches myself.

As we stood there chatting I admired some pretty flowers at the edge of her field.

"Look at the interesting colors in this flower! They fade from dark yellow to light yellow!"

"That is shungiku, one of the vegetables that we have been growing and the seeds have fallen by the road and grown wild."

I learn something new everyday!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Green walk

More walking.

Choco and I took our morning walk around 5:45 yesterday morning (Tetsu stayed the night in the convalescent home) but the farmers were already working hard!

We passed a leek farm and the farmer and his wife were tilling the soil in the hot houses for spring planting.

Good black soil!

And here are the young leek sprouts being cared for by the farmer's wife.

The planted rice fields peeking through the forest.

Looking down on the paths we've just walked.

Ah, home and a nice cup of coffee in the yard!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

A walk with Choco

This weekend I bought myself a new pedometer. I dropped my old one and it broke into three pieces. Time for another one. My new one doesn't seem to register smaller movements... which is just as well because I think I was tricking myself into believing quilting hand motion equaled a few extra steps. Choco and I went out to add steps to my pedometer.

"Ooh. The ferns are so soft. They tickle my tummy!"

"Bleh. These flowers taste terrible."

"Come on Mom. Let's get going!"

"Choco! Where are you going?! Come back!"

"Good dog. But you sure got wet. Take a breather by our church."

"I'm pooped."

"Let's take the short-cut through the forest."

A forty minute walk. 4625 steps (for me. Choco had more I'm sure.)

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Amphibians.... Beware!

I was talking about gifts from farmers the other day...

One of my farmer friends handed me a box of beautiful leafy lettuce. Actually I let the box sit in the entrance for a day but I got around to bringing it into the kitchen the next night. I had to rescue my quickly wilting lettuce and dumped all the bunches into a pan of cold water in the sink for a couple of hours.

In the evening I decided to make a salad and started ripping apart lettuce leaves.

YIKES!! I medium size frog jumped out from where he'd been cowering in the lettuce leaves and landed in my sink!

Well! Thanks for the shot of adrenaline!

I'm surprised the frog lasted two days in my house with six cats on the prowl, but the cats spend most of their time sleeping... In honor of the frog's survival skills I gently removed him from the sink (after taking a picture), opened the window and placed him on the window sill.

I am not afraid of frogs. This one that got waylaid to my kitchen was bigger than the usual ones that sit on leaves and are no larger than a horsefly but still, I'd rather they not come in my house.

Now this guy is kind of cute...

There are two tiny frogs on the leaves... I noticed them when we took our morning walk at 5:45 and at 9:30 when I went looking for frogs to photograph, they were STILL in the same position. I guess frogs don't move around any more than my cats do.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Pictures of Thursday patchwork day

Yesterday was a patchwork day with lots of activity going on. I don't think I once sat down and just chatted with people.

The morning started out with showing some of our latest projects.

Mrs. Furui finished another donation quilt for the Ronald McDonald House. She had friends make up the stars and she did all the hand quilting. HANDQUILTING!!! Just beautiful!

This is the Crazy Goose Chase quilt ready to take to Ronald McDonald too. I could never spread out the quilt at my house so I wanted to get a last picture of it all in one piece.

And here is the collaborative quilt Mrs. Furui and I did together. As you can see, the binding needs to be put on but again, Mrs. Furui's wide room lends itself to photographing quilts so we've taken another photo. I was so pleased that everyone praised my quilting attempt.

Mrs. Harada put her circle quilt together... I don't know how long she's been working on this but it has been awhile. She asked for all of us to donate pink fabrics and then she started cutting and piecing. Most of those RED fabrics seem to be mine. I guess I didn't know the difference between RED and PINK. Mrs. Harada has this at the flimsy stage and she will baste it and hand quilt it. This is going to go to her new daughter-in-law.

Mrs. Ochiai thought you should see what I look like when I'm playing with my camera....

Now... Onto the main event.

The purpose of our gathering together is to work on the kindergarten bazaar quilt and so we put away our own things and got down to work. And this is the way we work.

Here is Mrs. Furui and me down on the floor deciding about block placement. (You can see that my knees have recovered.)

And slowly, the quilt grows. Mrs. Yamaguchi and Mrs. Harada making block adjustments.

Mrs. Okutomi ironing, Mrs. Takagishi hand sewing and Mrs. Ochiai putting blocks together.

Mariko-sensei, the kindergarten principal, came to give us support and nourishment (she brought cakes for everybody AND their families!)

"Now what do you think about THIS block placement?"

Interestingly, though THIS was the original plan, Mrs. Okutomi observed that the "river" cut the quilt in two and the whole thing needed more movement.

We decided on THIS layout, meaning that Mrs. Okutomi will make us another "river" this month (she made the first one too. They are her bright fabrics) and we will stagger the layout.

"Whoops, that means you'll have to leave the quilt laid out on your floor this whole month Mrs. Furui."

I think she will put it away and rely on the photographs we have taken.

I'm putting an awful lot of pictures in this post but here is last one of the original patchwork group with Mariko-sensei, the kindergarten principal. Mrs. Okutomi, Mrs. Furui and I put together the first bazaar quilt 20 years ago.

Thursday, May 24, 2012


My farm neighbors give me the fruits of their labors. And I AM grateful. But sometimes I do feel at a loss.

Yesterday a friend handed me a huge bundle of fuki. Dear me... What is fuki? It looks like a type of rhubarb and like rhubarb, only the stalk is edible. It has a bitter flavor and is very stringy, but it can be peeled and then boiled a couple of times to remove the bitterness. In other words, there is a lot of work involved with fuki! And I had a whole bundle plopped into my arms!

The other thing about fuki is that it needs to stay out of the sun after being picked and it needs to be cooked up quickly to retain its tenderness. So I was on a time factor. On a Wednesday!

I put my bundle of fuki in the kitchen sink full of water and left it for the day. It was the best I could do on a Wednesday morning.

At 6:30 I came home and sighed when I saw my kitchen sink. Before I began dinner I had to do something with the fuki.

And so I peeled, and peeled and peeled! It is an easy job, repetitious. Just pull away the outer layer with a thumbnail. But I had a lot of fuki! I boiled up two large pots of water and put the fuki in to boil. (TWO BATCHES!) and then dumped out the water and boiled the fuki again. (And I was still peeling.) Finally, at 7:30 at night I was ready to make a dish with the fuki. Some of it.

I consulted the Internet and found a fuki recipe that I could make with things I had around the house. (Besides just the fuki.) Leiya was on chat and caught me while I was rejecting various fuki recipes.

"What are you doing?"

"I'm cooking fuki and I don't have time to talk with you."

"What is fuki?"

"It is a spring Japanese vegetable and you can be grateful that you will probably never have to cook it. Good-bye."

I went back to my fuki and simmered it up with some deep fried tofu. I flavored it as best I could.

When Tetsu came home (the rest of dinner was pretty sparse) I grumbled that I had been making fuki all evening and didn't even know if it was edible.

"Hey, this is great, Tanya. Your fuki is delicious! Yum, yum, look, I'm eating it all up. I like your fuki."

"It's a good thing you do because there is at least three more dinners' worth of fuki still in the kitchen sink."

This morning I spotted a different farm neighbor in her field.

"I think I'll offer Yano-san some of the fuki I prepared last night. There is so much left."

"Um... I wouldn't do that. I LOVED your fuki... but I don't think it would suit Yano-san's palate. It might taste a little bit too "foreign" for her."

It seems that Tetsu was just trying to be diplomatic about last night's fuki. It is not really of "share some with your neighbor" caliber.

What am I going to do with all the fuki still in my kitchen sink?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

In the country

As promised, here are pictures of the rice fields behind my house.

Actually, a rice field with a farmer just getting ready to put in rice. The rice is started in hot houses on flats and then the flats are set into the planting tractor that pulls off a few stalks at a time and plunks them deep in the flooded field. Around the edges of the field (where the tractor can't get close to) the farmer and his family will hand plant the rice stalks, wading in the mud. It gets to be a family event with a everyone sitting around the edges of the field eating rice balls.

I thought the pick-up truck carrying the flats to the field was interesting. Like tiles of a green carpet!

And here is a newly planted rice field rice all in nice straight rows. The ducks will come soon and swim around through the rows looking for polliwogs to eat I presume. And gradually the countryside will become a huge carpet of green!

I love my countryside scenery.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Tokyo sightseeing

Today I have some leftover photos of this weekend. City pictures and maybe not exciting to most people but to Tetsu and me, the country bumpkins that we are, a completely different side of Japan that we usually never see.

After leaving the Umihotaru tunnel, Tetsu and I drove to Yokohama which is the main port of mainland Japan. Speeding along the highway, looking at all the ships and cranes and freight containers made me wonder what my grandfather would think if he stepped into Yokohama today. More than a hundred years ago he left Japan through this port and worked his way across the Pacific on a freighter...

Tetsu and I had heard of a historical brick storage complex in Yokohama (probably built to hold freight those hundred some years ago), and we took a little time to see what it was all about.

There was a music and band festival being held that day and people were out in hordes! Not exactly the historical place I imagined but certainly different from events that Tetsu and I usually attend.

Yokohama is a lovely place and I'd like to visit again (when there are less people.)

Residential areas in Tokyo sure are dense!

The image of Mt. Fuji along a highway wall.

A lot of tall buildings!

Leaving the Tokyo area to head home.

And introducing Sky Tree, the tallest TV tower in the world. It opens to the public today but you can be sure Tetsu and I aren't going to be making a visit to the observation platform for a few more years. The waiting list is horrendous and Tetsu doesn't like heights. I don't think it is going anywhere.

Tomorrow's pictures will be of the rice fields and nature behind my house. Certainly different from Tokyo!