The Strawberry Jam Night

What do you do when you have a pile (and when I say pile, I mean a whopping pile) of strawberries from the nicest farmers in town?
We make jam!!! 😀
First, we cut the stem off and weigh the strawberries.
All you need to add to the strawberries are sugar and lemon.
Then…you stir and stir and stir!
We all took turns stirring the pot so it wouldn’t burn…it’s harder than it looks.
It ended up being a pretty big batch since we made jam in two pots. The kitchen smelled amazing. The minute we decided it was done, we tried it out on top of yogurt. And of course, we patted ourselves on our backs because it was delicious! (hehe!)
It’s really simple to make so if you ever get your hands on a bunch of strawberry, here’s the recipe:
Homemade Strawberry Jam
1,400g  Strawberries
1,400g  Sugar
(or 1:1 of strawberry and sugar)
1/2  Lemon, squeezed
Cut up the strawberries.
Place in pot.
Add the sugar.
Let the strawberry and sugar
sit in the pot for 15-30 minutes.
Turn the heat on high and start to stir.
Smash a bit of the strawberry while stirring.
Once the juice from the strawberry starts to boil
turn the heat to medium and continue to stir.
Also, remove the foam.
Once it starts to thicken
add the lemon juice and mix in.
Turn the heat on high one last time.
And it’s done!

The Day We Jumped For Joy

This past weekend I was in Miyagi prefecture again with my friends. And if you couldn’t tell from the gif above, it was a fun fun weekend. Posting pictures from the trip real soon but had to share our jump for joy today!

Who knew jumping around in the parking lot would end up being so much fun? We were a little tired but once we started taking these pictures, our energy level spiked. Before we knew it, we were doing crazy jumps over and over again.

You should try it sometime. You’ll discover a whole new meaning to “Jump for Joy!” 😀

The Apple Wine from Yamamoto

Have you ever tried apple wine?
I don’t know much about wine. I know if it’s red or white and I know if I like it or not. But that’s about it. So I can’t tell you much about how this apple wine tastes, except that I really liked it and it was gone before we knew it.
This wine uses Kogyoku apples produced in Yamamoto. They first started selling this wine in 2010 in order to promote the delicious Yamamoto apples. They made the wine at Kikyo Chobei (桔梗長兵衛店), which became a winery in 1910 and was the only winery in Miyagi Prefecture. But in 2011, when the earthquake and tsunami came, the winery was damaged and all the machinery were swept away. Even more devastating was that they also lost the owner and his wife in the tsunami.
It was impossible to produce the apple wine in 2011, but through much thought and cooperation with various people after the tsunami, the apple wine was once again produced in 2012, this time to support the efforts of apple farmers trying to get back on their feet. In order to keep things close to home, they found a winery in the neighboring prefecture of Yamagata to produce the wine. And this year, once again, they produced a total of 1,500 bottles this year to be sold in Miyagi.
We were there a couple of days after the apple wine hit the shelves and they were already all sold out. It seems there are many fans of this apple wine. Luckily, our friend had a bottle and were all had a chance to taste it. So fruity and delicious.
I’m going to have to keep my eyes out for this apple wine next year!

The Sunny Weekend in Yamamoto

Spring had definitely come to Yamamoto the weekend we were there.
It felt really great working under the sun. Although inside the greenhouse is like a sauna. But again, a great way to naturally lose some pounds by sweating it out. Just need to remember not to forget sunscreen next time. It was that warm outside.
So it’s no wonder the flowers were starting to bloom. The fields, that were just a couple weeks ago just dirt and dead leaves, had started turning green here and there. Something very exciting about spring. Like seeing color just burst into the world. 
It’s really like Robin Williams says, “Spring is nature’s way of saying, Let’s party!”
The sweet dogs we play with during breaks, Sakura and Shibazakura.
The parent plants are growing steadily for this summer.
All the lovely green grwoing around the greenhouse and my new boots.
My awesome mugiwara hat I borrowed for the sunny day.
Lunch was delicious soba with tororo imo…so delicious!
My fascination for greenhouse farming grows with the plants.
Parent plants aren’t meant to grow strawberries so we pick the flowers.
Nothing beats taking a break and enjoying strawberries!
Done for the day…time to head to onsen!
Received the most delicious strawberries as a gift.
Pretty trees by the onsen entrance.

We could see the Zao mountains on our way back…so pretty!
Our second day was filled with shovels, sand/dirt, and these awesome wheely things.
Found a classical CD in its case while digging…still a lot of things in the ground.
The cherry blossom that was planted last year…hope it blooms every year! x

The Sakura in Yamamoto

Finally catching up on my posts from Yamamoto!
I have been sick this week like never before. Like barfing-all-night-with-a-high-fever kind of sick. And I have found that age does not make getting sick easier. What ever happened to the days of hopping out of bed the minute the fever goes down and go skipping outside? My fever didn’t go down for two days and even when it did, I felt like crap. I am seriously going to take better care of myself so that never happens again.
That being said, this week HAS helped me lose most of my winter weight all at once so I guess it’s not all that bad 😀
Anyways, so here are the lovely cherry blossoms in full bloom in Yamamoto. We were so lucky to be able to see them last weekend. And we even had blue skies to accent the pretty blossom!

The tree standing at the entrance of the volunteer center at the town hall.

We oohed and ahhhed over the cherry trees in bloom in various parts of the town while heading out to the greenhouse we were helping out for that day. They were in bloom everywhere!
After our day was done, we also stopped by the famous cherry blossom spot Hitome-senbon-zakura (一目千本桜) in the neighboring town. Over 1,000 cherry trees stand along an 8km stretch of Shiroishi River. We were only there for a little time but with lanterns along the trees and the thriving food stalls, the whole area was really festive!

Group picture under the cherry blossoms! 😀

The Crazy Wind

Just got word from Yamamoto
that the winds have been blowing something crazy.
Spring tends to do that.
But the sad thing is
it’s tearing up the greenhouses.
I don’t know if it’s because the greenhouses are
being built on land that was pretty much wiped out by the tsunami
so there aren’t very many trees or anything standing to block the wind.
Or maybe this is what happens every spring?
I’m not too sure since I’m still
a beginner when it comes to greenhouses.
The greenhouse we finished last weekend
has been damaged and the whole top part of the plastic
is apparently billowing in the wind right now.
So sad 😦
Spring is wonderful but maybe they can
tone down the wind a bit along the Tohoku shore?

The Weekend in Miyagi – Day Two

The second day we were back at the paprika farm
we were at back in January (here and here).
I’ve been fascinated with these greenhouses lately.
They are so complex and brilliant.
It’s been educational being able to see first-hand how to built one.

This was the very last greenhouse to be built on his land.
And we were lucky enough to help him finish it.
We were all worried it would start to rain…until it started snowing.
This is the side part of the greenhouse that can be rolled up to let the air in.
Taking a break around the little bonfire…it was wet and cold all day.
At one point, it actually started to hail.
Rain, snow, and hail all in one morning…but we completed the last greenhouse.
We stopped by yesterday’s farm again to buy strawberries.
Took a group picture before we headed back home to Tokyo!

The Weekend in Miyagi – Day One

My trips to Miyagi are always quite sudden.
This time it was due to the fact that the
free highway toll for volunteer cars would end in March.
So we decided to go once more before it ended.
Spent the first day digging up weed the old-school way.
Often find seashells and things from the sea in the yard.
Playing with the farmer’s dog that gets bigger every time we see him.
This farmer grows strawberries…we got to eat some during our break 😀
We had these sweet little flowers back in Michigan, too!

Plum blossoms were just blooming while we were there!
We went by the local vinyard and I got to name one of the newly planted grape vines!

The new memorial  “Sennen-no-tou” that was built where the old grave was located.
It was built so the people a thousand years later will remember the tsunami.

It is located next to the grade school that is the only building standing in this area.
The onsen that we always come to at the end of the day…love this rotenburo.
The view from the outside bath…next time there will probably be more green leaves.
Perfect chilly night to have nabe for dinner…chatted the night away.