Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Off we go!

Tomorrow morning, bright and early, K and I will be heading to the UK. H will travel with us as far as Tokyo, then he's off to Bangkok for a long weekend, though he will come and join us for 10 days in the UK later too.

I had several blog posts planned for before we left, but somehow I didn't quite get round to writing them. Things weren't helped by K having bronchitis, but he seems to be over the worst of it now (fingers crossed...). For now, a little K update. His language is improving little by little and he is really into counting. He also likes telling us what things aren't as well as are. Recent examples: 'Red car! No blue car' and (my favourite) 'One moon! No two moon'.

Hopefully we will be seeing a lot of you in the next month. I'm really looking forward to the trip, less so to the 12 hour flight with K... I doubt I'll be blogging while I'm away so, if we don't see you in person before, see you in September!


Spotted in the garden over the last week or so, a variety of little creatures. There's a lot of green-on-green camouflage going on here, so look carefully...

(a praying mantis)

(a dragon fly)

(3 little baby grasshoppers)

(a cute little frog)

(another grasshopper, all grown up this time)

(a different type of grasshopper; this one was huge!)

(kanabun; a kind of scarab beetle)

(a stink bug)

(another praying mantis)

That's about it for my insect knowledge. If you want to know more, I'll ask H :-)

Sunday, 25 July 2010

In the garden

Things have been growing like crazy lately, with all the rain and hot weather. The morning glories on the net against the patio have finally realised what they are supposed to be doing and we see some beautiful blooms every morning.

Most are this pale purple or light blue colour but there are also some lovely dark blue ones and some light and dark pink flowers too.

The vegetable patch appears to be entirely corn, but there are a couple of mini-tomato plants hidden away in there too. We're getting about half a dozen little tomatoes a day; nothing compared to last year, but enough really. The mystery, possibly-a-cucumber, plant turned out to be a stray gourd which is now winding it's way around everything in its path...

There's a lot of variety in the development of the corn, but the bigger stalks are forming ears now. It looks like H will soon be able to harvest some, but I suspect that K and I may miss it all :-(

No-one feels much like cutting the lawn in this weather (or doing housework for that matter), but it did get done in the end yesterday. Luckily it grows much slower that a British lawn, so it won't need to be cut again for a while now. I think it's looking pretty good...

Project Shade For The Patio is finally coming to fruition - just as we're about to leave the country. It'll still be very hot and sunny when we get back though, so hopefully I'll be able to enjoy it then. As well as the morning glories, there are a couple of gourd plants climbing up the net and there are several cute little gourds hanging around there now too.

To give you an idea of how quickly it's all growing, the following photo was taken on July 11th, back when it was still very wet and not quite as hot as it is now:

And here's how it looked this morning, about 2 weeks later:

Pretty much all the credit for the garden must go to H, who weeds and waters every day after work. Thank you H, you're doing a great job!

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Feeling hot, hot, hot

Japanese people often ask me what things have been difficult for me in settling in Japan. I think they are expecting me to reply about cultural differences, language barriers and the like but, honestly, I think the thing I find hardest to live with here is the climate. The winters here are pretty cold and snowy, but I can cope with that; put on warm clothes, move about a bit, take a hot bath... There are lots of ways to warm up. Summer heat, on the other hand, is inescapable, and relieved only by the power of air-conditioning.

The rainy season has now come to an end here, and we're well and truly into summer. In other words, up until last week it was hot, humid, cloudy and rainy. Now it's hotter, slightly less humid, bright and sunny. Last Friday seemed to be the turning point, though in a surprising direction; the day started very hot and bright so I did 2 loads of washing, hung my duvet outside to air and opened all the windows before going out to Jusco. Emerging from the shopping centre about 90 minutes later, I found black skies, torrential rain, thunder, lightening and a temperature 9 degrees lower.

Arriving home I quickly closed all the windows, mopped up the few wet bits of floor and dumped the sodden duvet in the bath. Luckily it was a washable one so I took it to the laundrette the next morning. As for the washing, I realised that there was no point in rushing to bring it in as it was completely soaked anyway. So I just left it there and started all over again on Saturday...

Since then, it's really been summer. This morning it was 30 degrees at 8am, and 35 degrees at 1pm, according to roadside temperature displays. The thermometer on the car read 42 degrees at lunchtime... Even today's temperatures wouldn't be so bad without the high humidity, but leaving the safety of an air-conditioned room still feels like walking into a greenhouse. Of course, it looks lovely when you admire it from afar - blue, blue skies with the occasional fluffy white cloud contrasting with the beautiful rich green of the rice fields. It seems like the perfect day to go to the beach or play in the garden, until the heat of the sun and the humidity hit you, that is!

Anyway, enough whinging! I am making my escape next week, for the less predictable but also less taxing delights of a British summer - do I need to pack shorts and T-shirts or jumpers and a coat?

Thursday, 15 July 2010

I'm in a treasury!

Well, my fabric is...

If you're not a big Etsy user, let me explain... Etsy users can put together little galleries of favourite featured items, called treasuries, for everyone to see and browse. Today I got a message from SunSan, creator of lovely jewellery, letting me know that she had included my red and blue cherry blossom print fabric in her flower-themed treasury. Yeah!

I am so pleased to have been included in this lovely collection of beautiful items. Check it out if you have time!

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Look what I found!

Yes, more of this adorable Little Red Riding Hood fabric! I had already bought all that was available in this city and in the next one and it all sold out from my shop immediately. My new thought now, whenever I go to a different city, is 'I wonder if they've got any of that fabric...', and this time they did! I have put one metre (4 fat quarters) for sale in my shop here but I actually have 5 metres (all they had) so if you would like more just get in touch!

In other shop news I have added some more fat quarter sets today - this time, bright cherry blossoms on red and blue or yellow and green backgrounds. I've also recently added some super-cute owl print fabric in red or blue, glittery hearts on a black background, cute little cats about town and more!

Finally, an advance warning! I will be closing the shop for the month of August to go to the UK with K so, if you need some cute Japanese fabric for your summer sewing, get your orders in soon! Thank you :-)

Monday, 12 July 2010

At the weekend

On Saturday we went to visit some of H's relatives and stopped off at a small park on the way, to have lunch and play. As you can see from the picture above, we were the only people there!

The park used to have an admission charge but it is now free to go in. However, there is still a sign announcing that it is closed on Tuesdays. Seeing as there was nobody working there on Saturday, closing the park seems to consist of putting a chain across the car park to stop anyone going in. Not quite sure why...

We had our lunch at some covered picnic tables at the end of the park, where it was shady and cool. K only ate half of his so I decided to save the rest for later. I put all the bits and pieces back in my bag, tied up all the rubbish in another bag and placed them both on the picnic table next to K's noodles, in their own container with a lid. Before I'd got more than about 5 metres away from the table, a crow swooped in and grabbed the noodles, pot and all, and was away again. I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it!

Anyway, K still had enough energy for some parent-scaring climbing, and some more gentle swinging too. But the highlight of this park is their giant roller slide, visible in the background of the photo below. You used to have to pay for this too, but not anymore. In fact, the one time before now that I went on it I didn't pay for it either :-) When H and I were dating we drove to the park one night and snuck in, which simply involved stepping over that car park chain. It was rather unnerving going up all those steps and then down the slide in the dark, but great fun!

It's actually two slides, one after the other. The top one starts at the little yellow roof at the top left of this photo, and goes down to the clock. There, there is a little landing and then the second slide sets off, going out of the shot to the right and winding all the way down to the ground. At the foot of the steps were two blue baskets holding mats to protect your bum from the rollers - needless to say, they weren't there when we snuck in in the middle of the night!

Sadly, only the bottom half of the slide is in operation now. The top half is fenced off and is being reclaimed by the vegetation. I thought it looked like something that they might discover on the island in LOST...

Anyway, K loved it and went down three times, although he only climbed the steps once...

Sunday was cooler and overcast, and H had to work at the polling station all day. K and I went into town in the morning for a show put on by the city-run daycare centres. Children from the daycares performed little songs and dances and staff did a play based on a traditional Japanese tale. It was the first time for K to go to a proper theatre with fold-down seats and all, and he seemed to really enjoy it - watching transfixed, standing up and dancing around, smiling coyly at the woman next to him and playing repeatedly with those fold-down seats...

Next Sunday it'll be my turn to work again. That'll make 4 weeks in a row that either H or I have been working. The week after that though we have a 3 day weekend with no work, and then K and I head off to the UK for the whole of August. Yeah!

***Editor's Note***
Diane's got her weekends in a muddle. Next weekend is the 3 day weekend (although she will indeed be working on the Sunday) and the following, non-working, weekend is of the common-or-garden 2 day variety. We apologise for any confusion or inconvenience that this oversight may have caused.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Good night, sleep tight

'There was never a child so lovely but his mother was glad to get him asleep.'
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Not long ago I was complaining that K had given up on daytime naps. Now I dread him falling asleep in the afternoons.

I haven't been putting K down for a nap for a while but last Wednesday he settled himself down on the sofa at 4 o'clock and slept for an hour. That night he was awake until after 11. The following day H's mum took care of K and put him to bed for a nap as she always did. He slept happily from 2 till 4 but that night didn't go to sleep until 1.30. And then was awake again at 6.30...

Later in the day he fell asleep on the sofa again. I woke him up.

Tomorrow H's mum will be looking after K again. Last week I told her she didn't have to put K down for a nap if he didn't seem sleepy. This time she will receive strict instructions to keep him awake all day, or face being called back at midnight to deal with the consequences ;-)

Thursday, 1 July 2010

In the garden

All this rain and hot weather has got things growing like crazy in the garden. I feel as if someone sold their cow for some magic beans and planted them outside my window.

I took these photos a few days ago and already they are out of date. In the picture below, the gourd in the centre of the photo, with the biggest leaves, is now well past the horizontal green stick at the top of the shot. The morning glories are growing well too so we may just get some shade after all...

H's vegetable patch is growing well too. There is corn planted here and there all around the garden but some plants are doing much better than others. Yesterday we had our first three mini tomatoes, but the broccoli is not looking so good; it seems to have gone directly from 'not ready to harvest' to 'starting to flower', without forming a proper head at all. We also have a mystery 'possibly a cucumber' plant which is threatening to take over the whole plot...

Of course the problem with things growing like weeds is that the weeds are also growing like weeds. H is the main weeder here and it's keeping him very busy. At least the daily downpours mean that he doesn't have to water the garden! The roses are still flowering and now the oleander is coming into bloom too.

Typical symbols for the rainy season in Japan are frogs and hydrangeas. You can see pictures of them on various posters and leaflets at this time of year. So here's an obligatory 'hydrangea in the rain' photo, complete with rain-speckled spider's web and green rice field in the background.