24 June 2009

Vermont Quilt Festival 2009

Detail, traditional Hunter's Star quilt.

Theme room signage at a hotel linked to a culinary arts school.

My husband and I visited the 2009 Vermont Quilt Festival, staying at the Inn at Essex, a resort affiliated with the New England Culinary Institute, and a five-minute drive from the show locale.

Since I had a quilt entered in the show, we were able to attend the champagne and chocolate reception on Thursday evening, open only to class registrants and entrants. I'm glad that we had the limited admission opportunity, as the show was just packed with quilt viewers the next day.

Two cavernous halls filled with contest quilts, special exhibits, vendors and visitors from all over.

Montreal is only two hours away by car.

My overall impression is of very well-presented show, with a partiality towards traditional use of color and technique, with machine quilting now part of that tradition. Most designs were based on classic piecing and applique patterns, and used commercial fabrics. Hand-dyes, embellishments, and surface design were less in evidence than at other shows I've attended. Below are just a few of the quilts I found interesting.

A sashiko sampler; the squares were produced individually in a quilt-as-you go manner.

Easy-to-piece, but effective, pattern.

Detail of a luminous pineapple quilt by teacher Jane Hall.
One reason I like it is the use of black.

A poor photo of a very well-done quilt. You've heard of fan art and fan fiction? This is a fan quilt, based on a Manga (Japanese graphic novel) cat character called Loki.

Another easy-to-piece design that packs a punch of color.
As the maker noted, this quilt is from a pattern featured in a Hancock's of Paducah catalog, but is easy to adapt.

The fairgrounds sign.

It's definitely a good idea to allow two days, at least, to see all the antique quilts and other special exhibits, as well as the contest quilts, and to check out the many vendors.

A fun side trip is the Shelburne Museum, www.shelburnemuseum.org.

17 June 2009

My trip to Kyoto - getting there

The bullet train, or Shinkansen

My husband and I had the opportunity to spend five days in Kyoto in May, 2009. This blog post is just an attempt to share some of that journey. Unless otherwise noted, we took all the photos, which are just our snapshots, minimally processed.

Of course any trip really starts when the decision is made to travel and planning starts. One suggestion is that if you want to buy yen at your local bank, order the money at least a week before your departure. Turns out most bank branches have euros but not yen, and need a week or so to order them. ATMs connected to US bank networks aren’t as plentiful in Japan as in Europe, and even with the English language option they're a bit confusing, especially if you are jet-lagged. It would have been nice to have had two 5,000 yen notes (about $50 each note) with us, although we coped once we did find an ATM (more about that later.)

Japanese yen notes and coins

My husband Jay and I flew from Boston to Newark and then non-stop to Kyoto on Continental Airlines on a Great Circle route, glimpsing snowy northern Alaska from a window at one point. We both had aisle seats - easier to take the occasional thrombosis-preventing stroll, as it's a long, long flight. After over 12 hours we arrived at Narita airport. Travelling during the global H1N1 flu outbreak then added a little extra excitement. We were not allowed to deplane. Several young public health workers in full protective lab gear - including white coats, boots, ventilating face masks and goggles - entered and distributed an amusingly translated health form while one older worker scanned us with an infrared temperature sensor. Interestingly, the front of the plane - first and business classes - was clear out rather quickly, but we sardines in coach sat there for almost an hour while forms were distributed and collected.

Health clearance, in English and Japanese

You can't tell in this poor photo, but the pages are bright yellow

The white-garbed health team seemed very interested in a Japanese teenager in my row, but, fortunately, on the other aisle, so I escaped the dreaded red dot on my seatback. Others in his vicinity were not so lucky, and had to remain on the plane when we were finally processed, clutching our yellow certificates. Finally, off the plane and into Narita airport.

Jay navigated us to the Narita Express (NEX) which took us into Tokyo. About 30% of the people in the station were wearing face masks, all of the airport employees and most of the train employees too. Following the scene on the plane, it was like a Michael Crichton novel, and surprisingly disorienting to ask for information and tickets from a person responding from behind a mask. Staff were helpful though, and we purchased our reserved tickets for the bullet train, or Shinkansen.

Bullet train platform, Kyoto

Checking departure times

From the window we viewed many small rice paddies in the leftover space between the suburbs and the train tracks. The small plots were shiny with water; bright green shoots were already well-established. About 3 hours later we were in Kyoto.

At the Kyoto train station we found an ATM linked to US Banks and obtained some yen. We then took a taxi to the Palace Side hotel, our home away from home in Kyoto. This hotel is popularly priced, and caters to both domestic and international clientele, as reflected in the breakfast buffet, which offered traditional fare - including a yummy sort of rice pilaf - and a game attempt at bacon and eggs.

The Palace Side Hotel

The hotel is called the Palace Side, I think, as it's directly opposite the large Imperial Park, where the Imperial Palace is located. The air smelled like jasmine during our stay, which I suspect wafted over from the immense gardens.

The view from our room - the greenery is the Imperial Park

I would recommend this hotel - convenient to the subway, inexpensive but comfortable, with friendly staff who do make an effort, and WiFi, not to mention washers and dryers. We remembered to always carry the hotel business card with us, so we could just show it to the taxi driver.

Our room, complete with automatic tea kettle

I couldn't manage to get a decent photo of it, but the bathroom was a compact cubicle, very clean, with a toilet whose sensor started a trickle of water into the bowl as soon as one positioned one's posterior; this ambient noise, if you will, masks other sounds.

Since I'm talking about plumbing, I'll end this post with an image of a very pretty manhole cover, demonstrating the ability of Japanese designers to make almost any item beautiful.