Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Harada Farm and peach picking!

The Harada Farm is about 30-40 minutes bus ride from Tambara Lavendar Farm. It is a very large fruit farm that grows all kinds of seasonal fruits, so it is open throughout the year. My trip happened to coincide with the Peach season, so everyone was there to pick peaches :)

The first itinerary though was Lunch. However there were large groups of local tourists, and so we had to wait for a while for lunch to be set up. We were treated to free sampling of apple juice while we waited, which was TRULY delicious! I would love to buy some, but it comes in a glass bottle - which would make it difficult for me to carry home, so I gave that a miss. I'll remember the wonderful taste of it though ;)

Here's my very healthy lunch. It was delicious and everything was to my liking. On the left is vinegar rice with preserved pickles, sweet mushrooms, shredded egg, chopped up boiled shrimps, wild vegetables and japanese crab roe. On the right is pork slices, vegetables and udon noodles. We were supposed to dip the noodles in a light soya sauce gravy. I ate everything!

There was also a free flow salad spread - which consists of home grown cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuce, corn, carrots. These were all I can remember - but I didn't help myself to any as I was full after eating everything from my tray.

After lunch, it was time to head for the Peach farm which was just several minutes walk from where we had lunch! But first, I took some pictures of the Apple farm which was right next to our lunch venue.

Path leading into the Apple orchard

Apple season starts only around October, so they were all green still.... ;)

It was a very hot afternoon, and as we walked to where the peaches are, we passed by another section of the farm where various vegetables and fruits in smaller quantity are grown.  Here, I saw watermelons!

The peach farm is huge. Only a small section of the peach farm was sectioned off for peach picking. Before we headed to select our peach, there was a short briefing. Each of us were given a plastic protector to protect our own peaches. :) Also, the peaches cannot be consumed immediately. It has to be left in the open (not refrigerated) for 3 days before we can consume it. (And YES, the peach is juicy and sweet!)

Peach trees are actually quite tall, but at the same time, the tree trunk is short, which makes some of the fuits rather "low-lying". In this photo, I was actually squatting down to take this shot, so it gives you a perspective of how low some peaches are. So one needs to bend to check the fruits and decide which are the red ones ready to be picked.

There are also ladders provided for those who wish to inspect the peaches that are beyond reach. I didn't use the ladders though....I picked both peaches from looking at the low branches. :)

Red ripe peaches waiting to be picked! The aroma  is heavenly.
Mom actually "saved" a peach to bring it back home. She put it in her checked-in luggage, and protected it with clothes. She loves the smell of the clothes ^^

After we selected our own peaches, we headed for the bus.

We actually skipped the next itinerary of the tour, which was a guided walk to the Niagara Falls of the East. The reason was because the pebble stone walk near the river bank could be dangerous for some elderly, especially if they did not have the right foot wear. So my family skipped that, and we stayed at the village shop where we had some drinks and took a break.

Over here, there was a mini vegetable market right outside the village shop :)

This looks pretty, but I'm not sure what it is.

There is also a snack store, but I think they are closed for the day.

Hope you all enjoy this little walk with me ! :)

Friday, August 23, 2013

Homentashen - made with air dry clay

Lately, besides working on a few custom orders, I also found some time to make these homentashens using air dry clay. My friend especially requested for some of these, and after looking through some photos, I got excited and started making some.

The real homentashen calls for fruit preserves to be filled into the center of the dough before folding. But of course, this is not easy when working with air dry clay. I'm not saying it's impossible, but I like my work to be clean and neat. So taking that into consideration, and allowing myself to have the option to refold if I need to, I prefer to leave mine empty. Will fill in the centers when they are thoroughly dried. This should be much simpler :)

Of course, while I left the homentashens to dry, I also experimented with making fake fruit preserves fillings. I'm really itching to get the texture right, and I always do my tests on rough recycled paper first. Nothing gets wasted, and you can keep working till you get the right texture.

Fake fruit preserves is a new challenge for me. The texture isn't smooth, and there are bits of fruits in them. But to assimilate that look in miniature making calls for some "out of the box" ideas.

On the left is blueberry or raspberry preserves, and on the right is apricot preserves.

I'm really happy with how the preserves turned out, and I get to learn something new as well.

Now that I'm happy with the texture, it's time to work on the different types of fruit preserves. 

I'm going to fill up the homentashens and let you take a look at the final product later. :)

Have a good weekend everyone!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

A Visit To Tambara Lavender Park

I'm excited to blog about my trip to Tambara Lavender Park which was really the highlight of my recent visit to Japan. I'm sorry it took me a while to blog, but I had to find time to unpack, sort out the photos etc. I just finished conducting a workshop and feel like spending some time now to sit down to write out this entry. :)

When I knew that I was going to be in Japan during the season when lavender is in full bloom, I knew I must visit the park. After finalizing the park visit details, I was excited beyond words. As you may know, I really adore flower / fruit farms a lot. The very thought that I can visit and see it with my own eyes alone is enough to set me in an excited mood for weeks. My mother was equally excited to visit as well. Initially when I asked my mom if she wanted to go, I was worried she might not want to as the bus journey is really long, but I think she really loves the nature too and this is a rare opportunity to be able to visit the park when the flowers are blooming.

The bus ride took about 3 hours. (Although it was broken up into roughly 1.5 hrs each time with a stop break in between) We set off early in the morning, 7:40am. Luckily, there was going to be a short break stop during the 3 hour journey, and one could get off the bus to stretch their legs, visit the toilet, buy snacks and drinks. Also, the place where we stopped for break is targeted for tourists to rest, so the place is huge. There is plenty of rest rooms, food stalls, and even a place to grab some local souvenirs.

The bus continued its journey as it entered the village where lots of fruit farms are situated. Most people grow their own vegetables in their garden. The lavender park is located on the mountains.

We were excited when we reached. The first thing that came to my mind as I got down the bus was "The wind up here is so cool and fresh!". Alongside with the wind, I smell lavender! Refreshing!

This is the main entrance of the lavender park, which you would enter the park if you came 'solo or in a family' (not in a tour group). We came with a group, so we entered from a side entrance instead.

Side entrance used for tour groups

Bear in mind, the lavendar park is UPSLOPE. Before I visited the park, I did some research and many has recommended the cable car ride as it saves time.

For me, I had to consider my mother and relatives who have difficulty walking up slope in a large park, so purchasing the cable car ride ticket for a one way trip was definitely the right decision! We did not regret it!

We didn't had to wait long for our turn to ride the ski, as the line for cable car ride was very short. (We visited the park on a weekday) I heard that it could take 30 minutes just to wait for the cable car ride on a weekend. The ride was so fun. We had never experienced it before, so all of us were excited and delighted when our turn came. I was enjoying the wind, the view of nature and the quietness of everything. It was refreshing and peaceful.

It was very sunny, but umbrellas were provided :)

The large lavender park welcoming us when we reached the end of the cable car ride. It is a beautiful sight!

I wanted to buy some souvenirs and was happy to grab a few lavender items! My mom was excited and happy to find a natural water stream that flows 8 degree celcius cold mountain water continuously. It was icy, but felt so good in this summer heat. It is recommended to bring a towel so you can wet it and enjoy the cold icy feel on your face a while longer!

Next on our list was to try the lavender ice cream! There is more than 1 ice cream stand in this park, so you can get your ice cream anywhere.

There are 3 choices available : Lavender, Milk Vanilla or Mix (combination of both Lavender and Milk Vanilla).

Left is the Mix; Right is the Lavender

It is really yummy....:) We shared the ice creams between the few of us. They melt so quickly in this heat!

After enjoying our ice cream, it was time to walk around and take more photos.

We slowly made our way down the slope while taking in the view again. The walk down slope is not tedious and it is enjoyable.

I don't know what are these flowers, but they are so pretty too.

A view from the up slope.

Before I went to the park, I didn't know there were more than one type of lavender plants, but now I know :)

After getting more souvenirs at the entrance/exit, I passed by another ice cream store again.

Another last shot of this nice mixed pansies flower decoration, before I head for the bus.

I made a few notes in case there are folks who are interested to visit this lavender park :

* Definitely buy the ticket for a one way cable car ride, as it saves time. (Especially if your visiting time is limited)  If I remember correctly it was 700 Yen.
* Wear comfortable walking shoes when visiting the park.
* Do all your shopping at the end, near the entrance. There is a large souvenir shop near the entrance and it has the most variety of products.
* Bring a hat or cap. The wind is cool, but the sun is still scorching.

I know it sounds crazy, but given the opportunity (if I were to visit Japan in the same season where the park is open), I would visit it again. My mom said she would love to visit again. :)

In my next post, I will write a bit about my peach farm experience :)

Friday, August 2, 2013

Zakka Dollhouse Miniatures

My recent completed piece of work is largely based on the zakka theme which I love deeply in my heart and soul. This piece of work is inspired by bits and pieces of ideas that I bookmarked in my zakka themed magazine. Plus, I also often day-dream about having a shop or a small living space, with this functional ladder to display some unique trinkets ;) Just google to look at images of ladders and how they are used in home decor. It's amazing!

I even made my own little scallop bowl just because I cannot find one to my liking. Spools of thread in complimenting shades of blues and cream fill into this cute bowl.

As I worked on this piece, I realized that there can be so many ways to decorate this ladder, so I may come up with a few different one if I have enough time :)

The oh so familiar hydrangea makes another appearance in this piece of work, but I've experimented with new colours, and painting techniques with this. I've often made purple, pink and blue hydrangeas, but this time round I've tried to make a olive green hydrangea with purple shades in it, which is often seen in zakka arrangements. 

Some of you may find it strange to see an "&" wooden ornament in arrangement, but for those who are familiar with the zakka decoration style will know this exist! :) 

I hope you enjoy browsing my little piece of art....


On a separate note, I'm leaving for my holidays this weekend 4-13 August. :) I have been contemplating for a long time if I should carry my heavy camera along, but I think I will to capture some scenery of the nature which I will be visiting! 

My shops will stay open while I am away, but I will only process the orders when I am back. Apologies for any inconvenience caused, see you all later!