Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Progress ... I think

Friday evening we set out for our choir retreat.

Each fall we take a weekend to tackle the music selected for the Holiday season.

The first Sunday of Advent we have a "Choir Sunday" where the sermon in both services is replaced with a choral presentation .

This year, Bob Chilcott, "A Little Jazz Mass" is the selection.  It was good to work on that complicated rhythm and clashing notes until it became a little easier to handle.

Saturday morning we awoke to a stunning view of Mt. Fuji with it's first cap of snow. I really need to study how to get views on my camera. The point and click picture I got on my cell phone was much better but I don't yet know how to transfer those pictures to my computer.

No danger of me ever becoming a computer geek!

Of course I took my four-inch (well, now six inch) blocks to work on joining. Evenings and breaks and car rides I sewed them together in groups of four. I was really happy to complete that goal but also a little sad because now joining four twelve-inch blocks is a bit more difficult to count as take-along-work.  I haven't tried it yet but I am thinking that all those pins to hold the pieces as I sew might be a challenge to keep under control.

The sun set on a wonderful weekend.

The weather was warm and sunny.

Whatever rain that was predicted must have blown off with the wind.

The bits of music are playing over and over in my head.
(which is probably a good thing because it means I remember a lot of it)

and the quilt sits patiently beside me, waiting for some more togetherness.

Meanwhile, a huge task of sorting storage items and figuring out what to do with them is taking time and energy and more space than I have to spare.

The nights have become cold and another cover has been added to my bed.
It reminds me a little of my Grandmother's house ... always a quilt ... or two ... or three on every bed.
Who will keep warm under this one, I wonder ... and when will I have time to finish it?

Monday, October 20, 2014

Ready for a botany lesson?

Earlier today, I was visiting my blogging friends and came across some lovely photographs of leaves in the rain.

JoAnn of Scene Through My Eyes is a master with a camera and I always enjoy her nature pictures.

The pictures she provided are leaves in the rain and in fall colors ... lovely!

They looked to me like Katsura, Cercidiphyllum japonica, a tree that is native to Japan. In fact, Katsura is the largest deciduous tree native to Japan. It is the only member of its genus and, like the Ginkgo, the male and female flowers are on different trees.

In spring the leaves come out looking like pink hearts.

Only a few leaves were on the ground and these among the azalea bushes along the curb-side.

There were a few golden leaves, the most common fall color hiding among the branches.

A number of years ago, the local train tracks were raised above the main road and the place underneath was made into a parking area (where we park our car as well). The south side of the former tracks were planted with a line of Katsura trees. It is not a tree often found along streets but since it has no power lines to deal with, it looks it's very best here.

In another few weeks, we will be treated with a row of golden trees.

Being a woodcarver, this is one of my favorite woods. It is a reddish color, fine grained and easy to work. It is widely used here for cabinet making, veneer, and implements.

In 1990, the Scouts offered a course in Commissioner Science. The first year.a Scouter takes the course for a bachelors degree. The next year, teaches the course for a Masters. The final degree was a PHD (in commissioner science) and I decided to give it a try.

I gave three proposals of year-long projects and the one that was selected was a book to use for identification of woody plants (mostly trees). Scouts in the States have plenty  of resources to use in identifying poisonous plants and trees but in Japan there was nothing written in English. My plan was a guide to assist scouts in meeting many of the nature requirements.

These days you might be able to go on line and search for information but in those days there was nothing. Even today, a field guide in English is a far-off dream. I took one year to research common trees in the Kanto area (around Tokyo) and make drawings. The book was assembled on a word processor with the help of my husband. The pages were in the A4 size, printed and folded in half with the blank side inside. I stapled the open edges and added a cover. In February '91 I put together a book for each troop and pack in the area to use and one for each library in the international schools at that time. Since then, it has been scanned and added to the Troop 15 Far East Council downloads.

Recently I have passed the drawings and original prints to a Scouter who is planning to make an up-dated download in the future. At the back of the book, I put maps of areas with numbers where trees in the book were located. That way, a leader who had no knowledge of plants and trees, could go to the spot and read the description and let the scouts use their observation skills to locate the tree being described. Now many of those trees are gone and there are a few new ones to add. I am not very handy with a computer but the Leader says the newer version will be easier to add to or up-date.

I am just happy that my efforts so long ago were and are being put to use. I love to take scouts and leaders on nature walks and help them to get to know both plants and animals. We protect the things we love ... but the first step is getting to know nature ...  so that day will come.

On that walk to look at the Katsura, I was surprised to see a number of Japanese dogwood (Yama hoshi, or mountain star) in bloom.

These flowers usually open in the spring ... a bit later than American dogwood, and after the leaves come out.
I had never seen them bloom again in the fall.

We have had second blooms of Magnolia the last few years and my Gardenia usually blooms a second time when night temperatures fall.

These flowers come out light pink, then turn white and do make the trees look as if they are full of stars.

 The four-inch blocks are gradually getting done.

Today I finished the sashing on the blue ones and have 9 purple and six blocks left to do. Then I will be able to put this rainbow together.

Good project for a rainy day, huh?

I finally dug out the flannel sheet to arrange them on. This weekend we will have a choir retreat at the foot of Mt Fuji. I do not have to drive so I am hoping I will have blocks to assemble as take-along work. I am beginning to wonder the best way to keep them from getting turned or mixed up once I have them arranged. I am hoping to separate those with the same fabrics. Ideas and suggestions are always welcome.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Design bed progress

 I just happened to recall,I have a very large flannel sheet that was sent me by my son. Maybe it is time to dig it out and lay it over the bed to make arranging easier.

Clearly this is not going to end up as a small quilt for my semi-single futon.

The blocks made so far are laid out overlapping more than half an inch and this is a double bed. I am definitely planning to add some kind of a border to tie it all together ...
once I get it arranged and assembled.

Typhoon winds and rain provided plenty of indoor time to hunt through stash and cut the sashing pieces. Actually, by the time it arrived in Tokyo, it was just a tropical storm. The next day we were greeted by bright blue skies and still a lot  of wind. There was no damage due to the wind, even on the roof outside my greenhouse with many plants.

Actually the only damage was caused by feral cats, knocking flower boxes off the wall. I heard a crash in the middle of the night before the typhoon. It sounded like it came from the front garden and involved the birdbath. Sure enough, in the morning light the flower box was upside down with some of the hostas hanging from the birdbath and the box and soil on the ground at the foot of the wall.

(Our "birdbath" is a large ceramic dish, resting on top of a ceramic umbrella stand). Luckily the dish was not damaged. Someone in the area has been dumping cat food outside in our street late at night. The feral cats use that as a battleground. I posted a sign asking that they not feed cats there, but do it outside their own home but there is the food, less than a foot from the sign. The culprit seems to be someone living on the block, but I have yet to discover who. My daily sweeping and weeding has put me in touch with many of the immediate neighbors and I am beginning to hear the local gossip including who it is that does not pick up after their I suspected. What I don't understand he how many people can watch it happening and not speak up. I think if the owner knew they had been seen, they would change tactics (or sites) . There is such a thing as SHAME. Come on, if you can bend over and pick up three or four rocks to cover the poop,why not just pick it up?!?

My friend, Pat, of Bird Nest on the Ground, seems to think sleeping in a greenhouse on the roof is romantic. Therefore, I took a picture of what I see in my nest in the air.

If you look carefully, you might even see the plants. There is a step-tansu on the left. (That is a chest/cupboard that can be used as stairs) It contains orchids and cacti and a palm.

The table on the right has cuttings  and other stuff rests on the floor or small stands around the edges.

There is a balcony about a foot deep outside and I  use the railing to air my futon or dry large laundry such as tablecloths. You can see what this room is basically used for ... hanging laundry.

That is a gull kite flying in from the top right. The stairs are directly behind the camera with my futon on the right under the eaves. This romantic spot gets a lot of very hot sun during the summer. One also has to watch the weather to keep out rain. There is a large hole in the floor at the front right corner where rain has rotted out the floor. It was suspected that there was a leak in the roof area but since I have been at home this summer, even through typhoons, and no rain has come in, I suspect that those keeping house in my absence are less likely to think of shutting the windows ... or even notice that it is raining.

Last night it was actually rather cold ... going down to 9c and turning on the automatic heater a few times. I will have to make a few changes in bedding tonight. Time for a quilt or two?
It reminds me of a poem my dad used to quote ...

When it comes to weather, mans a fool.
When it's hot, he wants it cool.
When it's cool. he wants it hot.
What it is, he wants it not!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Waiting out another storm

I have a feeling that, like the last typhoon, this one is going to just amount to rain and hype. The weekly schedule goes on, rain or shine and the homeless will get their onigiri tomorrow morning, rain or shine ... well, not much shine at four am.

My sewing group met Friday and I had prepared these four blocks to pass to a member with a project in mind.

I still have not passed them on because Friday was my Cub Pack meeting and timing is everything when one does not live in the area.

Maybe next week I can pass them on. I could have made all four blocks the same but I liked the challenge of trying different lay-outs for the focus fabric and the three others I selected to go with it.

Saturday was the school's "Taisokai". Many schools hold sports days or athletic meets this time of year and Jiyu Gakkuen has a gymnastics day. I especially like the Danish gymnastics done by the boy's or girl's departments, all synchronized to music. As I watched the pre-school go through their simple race ... run to the hats, find their hat and put it on, run to the next station and pick up their notebook, then to the next station where they found their school bag, put the notebook inside and buttoned the bag, putting it over their shoulder, and raced to the finish line, I couldn't help thinking back forty some years to when my little daughter did the very same thing ... only in a very "big sister" way, as she helped all the kids who needed help and was last across the finish line.

The last part of the event is to release pigeons from their cages. The pigeons return to their school ground and an announcement is made upon the complete return.

This year the pigeons were released from the front of the field rather than the end, but otherwise very little has changed in all these years.

I have showed pictures of the athletics in the past but thought this time I might show a part of the campus that I love ...
the nature.

The Akebono-sugi, Dawn Redwood, or Metasequoia Glyptostroboides, was thought to be extinct and found only in fossils until it was discovered growing in China in 1941.

This tall pointed tree in the background must have been one of the first samples to be brought to Japan.
It is particularly nice that it was planted with enough space to grow naturally. Often these trees have to be pruned to keep them under control so this is a particularly fine sample.

In the late fall, the needles turn reddish brown and fall.

The Ginkgo, another "fossil tree" is also found growing on campus.

The Japanese Red Pine, Pinus densiflora is dying out in many places because of a pine blight carried by a beetle.

It is nice to see many large trees surviving on the campus.

Another huge tree is the Himalayan Cedar,  Cedrus deodar, The only "true cedar" in Japan, though many evergreens are referred to by  the name "cedar"

This specimen has probably undergone trimming at various times but it still is a very large tree.

Pyracantha, sometimes called "Fire Thorn", was planted long ago outside the office where the money was kept, the idea being it would protect the building from someone trying to enter through the windows.

I don't know if it ever did that job but it certainly likes the chosen spot and those bushes are very tall and thick and covered with berries (which will certainly please the local birds over the winter).

Most of the bushes looked so full of berries that one could hardly make out the leaves and thorns.

And the last piece of fall I always admire are the "Hototogisu".
The name comes from the spotted little cuckoo, a bird with a pattern similar to that of the flower's spotted corolla.

Interesting that by now the bird has left to its winter quarters. I have these in my garden at home ... rescued from a bulldozer that was turning a garden into a parking lot.

The family is Tricytis and it is often known as "Toad Lily". ... or hairy toad lily.

I hope you had or are having a pleasant weekend. I have been working on more four inch blocks, having decided to make the quilt into a standard size that might be more useful in the future to one of my kids. Maybe if it rains tomorrow......?

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Signs of Autumn

Apples are ripe!

These are "Fuji" apples coming to Tokyo from Aomori.

Note each one has a bar code pasted on it. Yep,those apples are being sold one-by-one at 158 yen (with tax).

They are beautiful un-bruised tasty apples but....

When I was growing up, my uncle down the road had an apple orchard. There were many varieties of apples ... green ... yellow ... red ... for pies and canning and applesauce or for making into cider. Us kids picked up the wind-falls and bit around the bug holes, but those apples were yummy. (and free)

Japanese apples are good and pretty to look at. The skins are tough though and not every brand is suitable for pies or apple cake. I guess that is not unusual in a country where many homes have only a small grill and no oven other than a microwave.

Another sign of fall, when the spider lilies begin to fade, is the delightful scent of Kin-mokusei. (Osmanthus or Sweet Olive).

These tiny flowers are tight on the branches and hidden among the leaves so one is more likely to smell them before seeing them.

When I say "tiny", I really mean it!

Here are a few lying on top of the wall.
Amazing how something so small can give off such a powerful perfume.

One activity for last week was to gear up the cookie factory.

Someone had seen Leia's last batch (maybe made last Christmas) and hired us to make cookies for a wedding.

Norie did the rolling and cutting and Leia and I did the painting and decorating.

Tuesday afternoon and most of last Wednesday we worked on several hundred cookies. Norie managed the oven and kept the supply going.

She also managed the camera so escaped the documentation.

Here is a batch cooling. A little bit of this and that from several collections of cutters.

The typhoon that blew past on Monday gave me a bit of inside time to work on sashing the four-inch blocks.

This is what is done so far, laid out on the double bed in the loft.

Well, it is a bit hard to see on top of the tree quilt but you get the idea. I have 9 blocks width laid out here.

I was planning ten blocks wide, That would make the quilt 60 inches wide but I think it will need to have borders  to make it look finished.

The quilt I am using now on my futon is 68 x 96 inches and rather too wide (the futon is only three feet across) . Now, before I make more blocks beyond what I have waiting for sashing, I am wondering what is a practical size for a single bed cover.

The "I Spy" quilt I made for my daughter's kids was 69 x 77 inches and I have slept under it many times on a bunk bed when I visit. Is there a standard size for a single bed cover? What would you advise? I think whatever border I might add would only be three or four inches but I won't buy anything until I have the top together.

Another typhoon is coming our way so I may get some more indoor sewing time. I am hoping I won't have leftover blocks to deal with so I am trying to plan ahead and I found the last bits of advice very helpful. Thanks in advance for sharing any advice you may have.