Looking forward to Spring

Despite a sudden burst of winter snow recently, my thoughts are turning to Spring. Maybe because the sun feels a big brighter and warmer now when it's shining.

I'm looking forward to a new season of plants on the balcony. What seeds should I order this year?

I always grow morning glories to cover the rails and give us some privacy. The grow so vigorously and flower so abundantly they are always a favourite of mine.

Morning Glory

Other contenders are cosmos and sweet peas, or maybe I'll try something new this year like miniature dahlias or marigolds.

In addition to flowers, I always make room for some basic herbs like mint, thyme and rosemary. Last year I tried dill for the first time. I didn't use it very much for cooking, but the flower heads were very pretty - like fireworks.

Fernleaf Dill

I'm hoping the lavender I started from seed will come back this year. With the mild winter we've had I think there's a good chance!

With plants, come insects. Some are troublesome, like aphids, but beneficial insects are great, such as big bumblebees and ladybugs. Last summer, I was so excited to find these ladybug eggs on the underside of a morning glory leaf:

Ladybug Eggs

The ladybug babies (which don't look anything like ladybugs - they look like strange lizards) would soon hatch and munch away on the pesky aphids. Natural pest control.

Sometimes the garden vistors are surprising. This spider who was hiding in the the rails was huge - about an inch long:

 Wolf Spider

He was so furry, like an old man spider. I kind of hope he visits my garden again this year!


Souvenirs from Tokyo #4

Tokyo has lots of lovely, well curated vintage shops stocked with old timey goodies from North America.

Sometimes it was a bit surreal to be surrounded by items from your childhood even though you're on the other side of the world. For instance, at a shop in Shin-Koenji, I found school desks exactly like the ones I used in kindergarten. They even had Irish Spring soap (my dad used this in the 90s) and Lip Smackers (remember those?). It was a trip down memory lane.

This shop even had the twin of a Fireking mug I've had for years and years. Of course we bought it, and now they are a happy pair.

Vintage mugs

These cheery McDonald's mugs also came home with us:

Vintage mugs

We stumbled on these Yoshitomo Nara cups in Shimokitazawa. They're sold as one cup sake drinks and were only about two dollars each. The sake inside wasn't great, but the cups are adorable. We brought them home to use as drinking glasses.

Yoshitomo Nara sake cups

That third one has the remains of last night's wine in it.


Brown Tweed

While watching a bunch of River Cottage episodes, my attention was occasionally drawn away from the food and farm animals to Hugh's tweedy English sweaters and vests.

It took a while to find a tweed I liked. It had to be 100% wool and I wanted the flecks of colour to be harmonious with each other, instead of loud, garish colours that looked too busy together. In the end I chose the new Rowan Tweed in Keld, a chocolatey brown with flecks of dark red, golden brown and dark brown.

Brown Tweed Pullover

The pattern is the Seamless Raglan from Knitting Without Tears by Elizabeth Zimmermann. It's my favourite sweater pattern. I like pullovers with no waist shaping and seamless sweaters are so comfortable to wear since they stretch and move in all directions. This time I made a double thick folded crew neck opening - I like how plush it is!