Friday, October 26, 2012

Out with the old ... in with the new

Or ... In with the old, out with the new!

The tiny  Kinmokusei flowers of last week are now decorating the moss in our ally. They used all their power to perfume the air and gave in to the first rain.

 Two new cyclamen joined the planter flowers.

I used to get large pots of cyclamen as gifts in the old days of entertaining. They were so beautiful while they lasted but ever so fussy to care for.

This garden variety, on the other hand, thrives on neglect. They don't mind pot or planter or sharing space with a summer blooming petunia. As the summer draws to a close, the leaves push up and flowers soon follow. These hardy little fellows will be putting on a show all winter.

Today, with the help of my trusty garden assistant, the little front bed was weeded and trimmed and lily bulbs were planted ... an early birthday present to a lily-loving grandma.

The old is out and the new is in and the promise of things to come ....

And here is the old that came in this week, two boxes of fabrics that got cleaned out of a friend's mother-in-law's home.

I hardly need more stash but... can I say "No thank you"?
So here it is, lots of light solids, gingham in assorted colors, and a few prints as well.

It will be a while before it is turned into "new" but I do see something in the future ... if I can just figure out where to put it..

.And ... as long as we are adding fabric, here is a bit of new that flew in the other day from Erin, of "My Patchwork Life"

I know this will go with a special group of fabrics I have been assembling for a project I have in mind and it will be fun to look at it and think of my blogging friend.

I missed out on the bloggers quilt festival this year. I just waited too long and then something went wrong with the router and there was no e-mail connections.

Here is what we did instead of sitting by the computer.

Leia came with a super-big (at least for Japan) pumpkin.

We scooped out lots of innards.

She drew a sketch of the face she wanted,
and we carved it!

Here she is, drawing in hand....

Pumpkin is lit.

Grandma gets the hug ...

The old is in with the hugger and the new is out on the gate post for the neighborhood to enjoy.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Time flies when you're having fun

Has it really been over two weeks since I last posted?

I knew it was a while but it seems time really got away from me. Our church celebrated it's 140th anniversary with many activities. I had a pack meeting with my Cub Scouts so couldn't make one of the events but the choir held a concert and there were many long-time friends returning for the festivities. I cut strips of white fabric and left them to be signed by those attending. I have some ideas in my head for a quilted banner using those strips but haven't picked them up yet.
I have to admit, when you have said good-bye to so many people over the years, it is quite a blessing to see them again, even for a short time.

In the midst of this, my daughter's best friend was in town and I had saved days to spend with her (Above is the view from her hotel room window. These buildings are so unusual in shape but certainly hard to find at ground level.) One trip was to the fabric wholesale district, "fabric town", and I was pretty proud that I managed to come away without buying more than two tiny pieces of fabric for my polka-dot stash. As for the friend, after that trip I had to take her shopping for another suitcase! We had a great time and some great food, joined by my food-loving husband, and I do believe my daughter is an expert at picking friends.

 This past weekend was our choir retreat. Our site is at the foot of Mt. Fuji. The weather couldn't have been nicer. Here is a view from the window at the foot of my bed. Now, THAT is something to wake up to!

Each year we return to the YMCA facility to work on our music for "Choir Sunday" ,in early December. This year we are singing The Magnificat by John Rutter. I have sung it several times in the past so it was not such hard work for me. The fellowship is always great and that choir knows how to party!

I cut sashing from a piece of blue fabric that had come from a friend. I have lots of solid blues but this was the shade that seemed to go best with those blocks.
(and it was right there for take-along work).

There is a slight problem, however. As you can see by the picture, the fabric has faded streaks where it has been folded and possibly left in the sun. It isn't a problem for cutting five inch sashing bits and I can probably manage the 18 inches across without difficulty.
There is no difference between the back and front except the back is less faded. Getting a long strip for each side might be a stretch

I tried laying it out with cornerstones. I still have lots of one-inch pieces but I thought the effect was a bit distracting. Someone suggested red cornerstones but I am not sure I want to add another color. I may just go with the faded fabric and cut very carefully.

I am rather pleased with the random blocks. I have four left over and am now thinking of bringing that number up to nine and making a pillow cover to match the table runner. Today, after a lovely visit with Cynthia , and a small group of her friends, I stopped off at "Blue and White" (sorry, I don't have the link) as they have a basket of scraps. I was happy to see Amy Katoh, the owner, there and we had a nice chat which ended in a gift of a few more scraps ... seen in the picture above. A pillow cover is now looking even more possible.

And now, for today's flower. This is the season for Kin-mokusei. I think I posted about this last year.
Osmanthus fragrans , is called Sweet Olive in English and you smell it long before you see it hiding among the leaves. This particular plant is growing in a large pot in front of a neighborhood garage. It is about six feet tall and has a Southern exposure and it is the most flower-covered specimen I have ever seen.

This is a hardy garden evergreen plant originally from China. I understand that in warm climates, this plant shows its relationship to the olive by developing small purple-black fruits. Interestingly, most mokusei plants in Japan are male.

Fall brings cooler weather which is such a relief from the hot humid days of summer. The leaves only have a hint of fall color as yet. First to turn are the dogwoods and first to bloom are the spider-lilies. Now we will have the
Sweet Olive until rain washes them all away and soon the other leaves will begin to turn. Halloween decorations are in the shop windows all over town. Friends are getting together after a summer away and following my birthday, I will have a visit from my first son and his wife. If posts don't happen, you will know I am still busy having fun.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Blue and white scraps

As I may have mentioned in earlier posts, I like to organize my scraps. When I have bits and pieces left over from other projects, I mark them and cut them into whatever size will comfortably fit on the scrap, and store them in a tin. I have a tin of 4x4" pieces, 3x3' pieces, 2x2" pieces and lots of one inch sorted into baggies by color.

When it comes to tenugui and yukata fabrics, I cut those scraps within an inch (not only squares but 4x2" or 3x2" and the like). Those I put together in a container with no plan in mind other than not to waste them.

Friday my quilt group met and I needed something to work on so I took out the little box and laid a bunch of those bits and pieces into five inch squares. One of my friends went off and returned with a few more yukata scraps she had been saving. I don't have so many of these scraps saved but I might end up with enough five-inch blocks to make a table runner. Here they are laid out on my design table. Some were made yesterday and some were done today while at the school's "Taisokai".

Every October, Jiyu Gakkuen, where I teach an English group, holds a gymnastics/sports day.

This Saturday started out cloudy with the prediction of rain but around the starting time, the sun came out.

There were races beginning with the pre-school and those have not changed at all in format since my eldest daughter was three ... over 40 years ago!

The Jr. and Sr. high students do Danish gymnastics and a May pole dance is always part of the program.

The campus buildings were all built by disciples of Frank Lloyd Wright, who built the first building on the then main campus in Mejiro, while in Tokyo building the Imperial Hotel. His hotel building has been partly moved to an architectural  village. It was used as headquarters during the Tokyo Olympics and later taken down to make a larger building. The school campus is in a beautiful setting and the buildings, though old, are very "Wrightish" or "Wrightesque"?.

The grass field is a bit greener than it appears in the picture. It was torn up in the spring to fix a channel for a stream that runs underneath,

All the buildings and grounds are maintained by the students. They weed this field and rake any leaves that fall. In autumn they pick up ginkgo nuts and clean them. They also have garden plots where they grow some produce that is used in meals.

This area has a history going back to Jomon days and there is a wonderful collection of pottery from this sight. In order to build any modern building, a certain amount of time has to be spent on a "dig". To some degree I believe the students get to take part and the school is allowed to display the items found.

Here are a few more gymnastics by ... I think, college boys.

This is part of the afternoon program. The sky clouded over and there were a very few sprinkles.

Because the rain was expected, the afternoon program was moved up by half an hour. I saw a bit of lightening far off to the west but before the program was over, the sun came back out.

The marching band that had led the parade of students on to the field at the start, played for the final march-by and the school flag was retired.

To some degree or other, this is a scene that plays out in every school throughout Japan during the first few weeks of October. These students practiced very hard and considering not every kid is an athlete or a dancer, the group effort was stunning.

My husband is a graduate of this school and my eldest daughter went to the pre-school here. I have had an association here through the College Women's Association of Japan, and teaching in the high school. This is a place that knows how to make people feel welcome and this crowd of over 2700 people had a fine day.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

It's a finish!

Do you think I'll get kicked out of the Slowpoke Quilters?  Begun on September 28th, I think this is the fastest I have managed to put something this size together either by hand or machine.

Of course, those child-friendly hexagons were all cut and marked and that was not only the inspiration, but a time-saver.

The size is about 47 x 48 inches ... about as square as I could get with hexagons.

I added writing in the turquoise strip ...
"I Spy .. a teddy bear, a kitty sitting on a chair,
 A boat, a truck, a car, a train,
 A lion with a fluffy mane,
 Fish with bubbles, fish with flowers,
The face of a clock showing hours,
Postage stamps to send the mail,
A lizard with a curly tail,
Bugs that fly and buzz and crawl,
 A ripened pumpkin in the Fall,
An elephant, some yummy fruit, a froggy playing on a flute.  Love in every stitch ..October 2012

The backing is made of tenugui. I had to add a dragon for a dragon-year baby and this was the only one that didn't look too scary in my collection. I thought the maple leaf print would be good for fall and the other two are typical Japanese prints

Here it is ... hanging on the park fence among the goya

Your botanic lesson for today...
A male flower...

A female flower...

The "fruit"...

This is on the park-side of the fence so I am not sure if it will be picked by the plant owner or by a park visitor or just left to ripen and drop seeds.

Where often the vine seems used for shade, this one may be providing some privacy for the house-owner adjoining the park.
Looks like a win-win to me and that wall of green gives a feeling of "cool", something we can use on these hot humid days of early fall.

And, in my own "garden", The favorite of the season...
the "Higanbana".

"Higan" is the Autumnal Equinox, which is an important Buddhist festival for the dead. The flowers are often found planted around cemeteries, rice paddies, and edges of fields.

Lycoris radiata, belongs to the family, Amarrillidaceae.
The genus name comes from Lycoris, the beautiful Greek Goddess of the Sea.

The flowers come first, poking up rather quickly on their stems and burst into bloom before you have even noticed them among the shrubbery. The leaves will come later after the flowers fade.
I have read that the bulb is poisonous.

My red ones are sharing a pot with a pineapple lily.
Some people don't like these in their garden because of the association with death. One of the common names is "Shibito-bana", literally, flower of the dead.

Obviously, I do not have those hang-ups. I love seeing them in the fall as a harbinger of cooler days to come.

As an aside, I grew up in a home where plants were often referred to by their Latin names. When my own children were growing up, I was shocked to hear the headmaster of their school state that using those Latin names was a way scientists talked in order to sound snobbish.
I have told my children and my Scouts not to be afraid of those Latin names, they are the true names of the plant. Once you know that Latin name, you can see how it is related to other plants all over the world. ... even more than looking at the leaves or bark of a tree, once you find that name, you can get a big "Ahah" moment. You even find out how many trees and flowers have common names that are mis-leading.... like the hundreds of trees called "cedar".
(and that goes for birds too which are sometimes victims of mis-naming).

A rose by any other name smells just as sweet. Yes, and my dad loved roses,  but he passed the love of nature to all his children and a certain curiosity to learn the rest of the story. Thanks Dad!