Wednesday, 16 April 2014

What Is Your Superpower Bloghop

Welcome to this bloghop! As always, many thanks to Madame Samm and Pauline for hosting. They must have so much energy!

I had a long think about my superpower before finally turning to my husband and asking him. "You could call yourself 'MegaMess' or 'The Mess Monster'." he helpfully suggested. He sometimes comes home to find me cross legged on the floor or sofa with fabric, knitting, embroidery and more spread around me. At these times he refers to me as "Craft Buddha"! But having seen a great Buddha at Kamakura a month ago I thought something a little less emotive was needed. Finally it occurred to me - yes, I am a tad messy, but I do know where everything is! Therefore....behold! The Mistress of Mess!
Mistress of Mess Embroidery
I mixed chain stitch outlines on the letters with a running stitch outline of the limbs and a kind of messy satin stitch on the hair, dress and shoes.
Mistress of Mess Embroidery Detail
Mistress of Mess Embroidery Detail
The central figure is a design I had saved as a flickr favourite from 2008 which made it onto Pinterest and came to mind when I heard about this bloghop. Unfortunately her shop is no longer open so I had to freehand copy the design but if it does reopen I will gladly pay for it. So happy that I finally got to stitch it myself!

I hope you like what I have done and are all aware of your own superpowers! Please visit the others who are in today's bloghop and those form other days. You can see the full schedule here.

WEDNESDAY APRIL 16

Monday, 14 April 2014

Things Can Only Get Better

Here I am back in the UK. I hadn't really noticed when in Tokyo but we don't seem to get decent clouds there. The sky is either blue, blue with a few wisps of white or completely homogeneous grey. Not like the UK.
longleat 046
I was mesmerised on the way to my sister's house. Apart from that I have slotted back into english life pretty easily.

I came back a week earlier than planned because of a family crisis - my sister's husband walked out on her and their 10 month old about five weeks ago leaving her without the money to pay the rent due the next day and just two weeks before she was due to go back to work full time from her maternity leave. I came straight to her house from the airport and have been here since but now I'm wondering whether I've done the right thing. She is so terribly upset and I have been trying to convince her that things will get better and to stop focusing on the worst possible scenarios. Unfortunately she sees this as me criticising her and she's ended up getting annoyed with me.
Dour Marble
She's also said that having me here has made it worse as it has highlighted how much easier it is when there are two people to share responsibilities for Jasmine and for the house.
NYC: St. Patrick's Cathedral behind Atlas
I've offered to stay in the hotel nearby so she has her evenings free and just be here to look after Jasmine during the day (her sitter is on holiday this week) but she was too upset to discuss it. I don't really know what to do. It is all a little awkward while at the same time I couldn't have more sympathy or be more sorry about the situation she has found herself in through no fault of her own. I am not very good at emotional stuff.

Looking for a ray of sunshine in all this - spending time with Jasmine has been wonderful although it did involve a particular nappy which I swear I saw Government agents in hazmat suits coming to collect later on.
What's That Noise?
We've been reading books and playing games and I'm starting to recognise the cries when she's tired or hungry and I even gave her a bath and put her to bed all by myself! Quite a feeling of achievement even though it has all strengthened my intention never to have children of my own. I don't know how anyone with one (or more) manages to get anything else done in their lives. I am due to stay with my Mum for a few nights from Saturday but I worry about leaving my sister in this state, especially as she has a house move coming up (to a cheaper place since she's been left in such a mess) and will need to start packing.

All in all it means a perturbing time is being had by all in this house at the moment.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

A Little Finish Before I Leave

I am taking part in the House of Pinheiro's name tag swap. Given that I am going back to the UK tomorrow (crumbs) I thought I had better get this done before I went.
My creation
I really enjoyed the little bit of applique and the piecing of the precious selvages. I traced her logo from her blog onto shrink plastic to make the little plaque and then added a pocket on the back using some of the linen samples I've been collecting from Okadaya. I thought it might be handy for business cards. I made the lanyard from ribbon - easily changed if she doesn't like it or if it gets grubby. I hope she likes it!

Apart from that I have packed up my hundreds of blue EPP hexagons and diamonds so I can start sewing those together while I am away. I also have some bright yellow socks to knit and an embroidery to make for the Superpower Bloghop I'll be taking part in later in the month. Next post - from the UK!
Rain on the M40

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Yanaka - The Only Place I Know That Combines Train Spotting, Shrines, Cats, Sculpture, Master Craftsmen and Sewing in Pleasing Proportions

It seems very odd that I have been a regular visitor to Nippori's fabric district (using the East exit of the station) without ever wondering what I would find if I used the West exit. It turns out the answer is Yanaka! A small area of West Tokyo between Nippori and Ueno. The first things you come to when you visit are two Temples. The first is Hongyoji which has been there since 1709.
Hongyoji Temple, Yanaka
Hongyoji Temple, Yanaka
Hongyoji Temple, Yanaka
The sticks on the graves in that last photo are called Sotoba and are essentially a kind of memorial stick showing that the ancestor is still being honoured and remembered by the family. The temple will add a new one each year on payment of a small something.

Next up is Kyoouji.
Kyoouji Temple, Yanake
There were two buildings within it. I wish I knew more about what they are, but the one below had amazing carvings on it, including the dragon.
Kyoouji Temple, Yanake
Kyoouji Temple, Yanake
While this one had the ritual hand washing place just to the left.
Kyoouji Temple, Yanake
The long, colourful rope at the front is for bonging the gong.

A little further along and you get to some steps, at the bottom of which is an amazing traditional bamboo shop - the initial incentive for my visit. I made a rather purse shattering purchase which I shall come to later. Most people were making instead for the busy, traditional shopping street which is at the bottom of the steps. It looks traditional at first glace but a lot of the shops are for tourists - and japanese tourists at that since many menus and signs were only in japanese.
Shopping Street in Yanaka
The area is famous for wild cats (I only saw two domestic ones while I was there) so everything is a little cat themed.
Shopping Street in Yanaka
See the little black puddle bottom left in the picture below? Meow!
Shopping Street in Yanaka
This shop was selling cats' tails, which is a traditional cake/sweet. They looked like tubes of sponge or possibly wafer filled with something but closed at both ends. The menu was only in japanese so I woosed out.
Shopping Street in Yanaka

As well as the shopping and religion, there is an *amazing* house called the Asakura Museum of Sculpture.
Asakura Museum of Sculpture
It used to be the house of Asakura Fumio (brilliant sculptor) and he designed every aspect of the house himself. Since his death in 1964 it has been a museum. Not only is his sculpture amazing (Rodin is the only person I can think to compare him to) but the house and garden is amazing too and you get to see the majority of it. Basically - this is the most beautiful venue I have been to since arriving in Tokyo. Unfortunately photos were not allowed indoors but there are some on the website here which is in English.

For the train spotting element we need to go back to the exit of Nippori station. The West exit comes out on a bridge which happens to span across about 8 sets of train tracks including the ones used by the latest bullet trains. When I first arrived there were some grown men with cameras but on my way back to the station it was a few very excited little boys.
Trains at Nippori Station
The bridge itself was rather beautiful having pictures cast in hexagons across it with sakura flowers in between.
My creation

Once I arrived back home I very excitedly got ready to striptease my purchase of its beautiful packaging.
Wrapped purchase
Traditional Woven Bamboo Flower Vase
Traditional Woven Bamboo Flower Vase
Squeeeee! The little vessel is to go inside to hold the water and flowers. You see, just as this whole japan-venture was taking shape I was developing an interest in weaving. I got this book (amazon link)...
...and got quite excited by the whole thing despite living in central london where grass is the only natural material you get. I then found out I would likely be off soon and gave it to my cousin who actually lives in the country. Since arriving in Tokyo I've frequently got excited by the basket weaving scene over here where there are several Living National Treasures (a lovely idea I think) who are Masters of the art. Googling led me to this shop in Yanaka and hence my visit. I hadn't actually meant to buy anything though. Or at least, nothing like this. 
Traditional Woven Bamboo Flower Vase
Traditional Woven Bamboo Flower Vase
Traditional Woven Bamboo Flower Vase
Traditional Woven Bamboo Flower Vase
I love it so much! I bought the flower especially. 

My only move towards actually giving basket weaving a go is Pinterest and some 100 Yen shop weaving strips. What I would love is to be able to make one of the handbags I saw in the shop today for...£300. I know some people (only two really) who would think £300 was cheap for a designer one-of-a-kind handbag but I am not someone who spends so much on them. The craftsmanship is amazing though. I stayed in the shop for ages carefully not drooling on the vases, baskets, creations and whatnots before coming back a second time to make my purchase, much to the delight of the lovely man there. 

Overall I would definitely recommend a half day in Yanaka for anyone visiting Tokyo. Plus it leads you straight into Ueno Park if you continue on instead of turning back as I did - and the Park is very beautiful with Tokyo National Museum (which I blogged about a few days ago) on another edge of it. I suspect the only people who wouldn't find something to interest them in Yanaka would be angsty teenagers, but then surely no one would waste Tokyo on a teenager. And if they did they should simply point them in the direction of Harajuku and arrange to meet them later. 

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Sakura Overload

Pooch says that once you've seen one cherry tree in blossom you've seen them all. I disagree, which is why I have three further gardens to show you, while Pooch spent his time with me at one of them keeping firmly to the footpaths and determinedly not enjoying himself.
Pooch at Shinjuku Gyoen Park
It all began last week at the Tokyo National Museum which only opens its gardens for the few weeks of cherry blossom season. Determined not to miss this opportunity to visit both the Museum and the Garden I went over there.
Hanami at the Museum
The Museum is very impressive, being a kind of V&A equivalent for Japanese artifacts. It also allowed me to take part in my first ever Stamp Rally - something that is apparently quite big here where you collect stamps at different points around a venue or area, and when you have sufficient you get a prize. In this case the little badge top left.
Tokyo National Museum Sakura Stamp Rally 
The gardens were quite small but very well kept. They also contained my first 'zen' garden I've seen since arriving here. By that I mean with the raked gravel.
Hanami at the Museum
One of the oddities of Cherry Blossom is that as well as the main branches, you get little puffs of it on the trunk itself.
Hanami at the Museum
These give you the opportunity for close up shots, since the branches are often a bit high up for that.

Just opposite the Museum is Ueno Park - a big park famed for its blossom and thus PACKED with people. I should explain the schools are on holiday at the moment with the new school year starting tomorrow, so everyone was up for a party.
Sakura Cherry Blossom at Ueno Park
As you can see at the far end of the pond, this park is famed for its walkways where there is blossom on both sides and it often meets overhead.
Sakura Cherry Blossom at Ueno Park
Wherever you find blossom you will also find Hanami Parties sitting on their large tarpaulin sheets under the tress.
Sakura Cherry Blossom at Ueno Park
You get office workers, families and also groups of teenagers getting politely drunk on the national equivalent of Diamond White (cheap cider english people my age will remember with slight revulsion from their youth).

These parties were also in full swing at Shinkuju Gyoen National Garden which Pooch and I lastvisited in December (and which I blogged about here). The difference the spring has made was very evident. I'm just going to let the photos speak for themselves.
Sakura at Shinjuku Gyoen Park
Sakura Petal Path at Shinjuku Gyoen Park
Sakura at Shinjuku Gyoen Park
Sakura at Shinjuku Gyoen Park
Sakura at Shinjuku Gyoen Park
Sakura at Shinjuku Gyoen Park
Sakura at Shinjuku Gyoen Park
Plus of course the Byrne in full bloom.
Lixie at Shinjuku Gyoen Park
Hopefully this post gives an idea of why I do not get tired of looking at cherry blossom - the variety and the context are both very special factors.

I am off to England on Thursday to help my sister out. I hope to fit in one more cherry experience before then and to continue blogging while I'm away. I have been squirreling away various props for use with Jasmine when she and I are left alone together so be ready for some unconventional baby photos in the near future!

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Cherry Blossom Fit For a Prince

Naturally since my niece Jasmine was born at around the same time as Prince George, and further because she is the cutest thing ever...
Jasmine 10 months
...I expect them to marry. Perhaps they will honeymoon in Tokyo in April. Then they will truly make the title of this blogpost true and not just a long winded way of saying this is the garden of the Prince Sakura Tower Hotel. If you are in Tokyo then the garden is free to visit, although to be honest there are much better ones. I was just in the vicinity and it is open on Mondays, which is when I went.
Cherry Blossom at the Prince Sakura Tower Hotel
I know I have already gushed about this in a previous post, but the masses of flowers are very beautiful and just ridiculously japanese.
Cherry Blossom at the Prince Sakura Tower Hotel
This garden also boasted the largest Koi I've ever seen.
Huge Koi Carp
Random woman's hand included for scale.
Cherry Blossom at the Prince Sakura Tower Hotel
Cherry Blossom at the Prince Sakura Tower Hotel
Cherry Blossom at the Prince Sakura Tower Hotel
As if two blossom visits were not enough, yesterday I went to the gardens at Tokyo National Museum which are only open to the public for a few weeks during the blossoming. The Museum happens to be opposite Ueno Park which is another blossomtastic venue and I took many pictures, which you can expect to see here in coming days.

Before I forget, registration for this swap closes in a few days.
epp swap icon round 2
There are still places left so click here to read more about it.

Related Posts with Thumbnails