Saturday, 28 January 2012

A Sneaky One from Japan

It's my last night in Japan and I've managed to borrow Melanie's lap top - no small feat, believe me. I've been trying to pack my bags and convince myself that I only have 23kg (baggage allowance) in my bag.  Unfortunately I have no way of checking until I get to the airport tomorrow night, and it's too late to go to the Post Office to post excess home to myself.  I've decided to post some notes for myself on the blog so I can throw out all the brochures, maps and information I've collected to cut down on weight,  I will post photos and add to this when I get home to my own computer.

Anyway, as I know I won't be allowed to have the laptop for long,  I'll get into it.

Day 4 - Nippori Street - what an experience!  Amazing fabric, haberdashery, everything sewing related street.  Wonderful bargains to be had - I especially liked the Yuwa and Echino fabrics, but more about this later.

Day 5 - Slow day, had about 6inches of snow fall overnight and it's very different for someone from Queensland to lay in bed and hear the sound of crunching as people try to navigate the very slippery, icy footpath outside.  Headed to Akihabara- electronic district where I brought a new camera, and Melanie found a shop called Super Potato with all kinds of electronic games - even the old Super Nintendo and older.  Found a great shopping centre - lovely to wander around out of the cold.  Melanie indulged her passion for shoes with yet another pair of dangerously high heels and both of us enjoyed time in Tokyo Hands with it's wonderful collection of cute stationery and stuff.
Day 6 - Dynamic Tokyo Tour - wonderful experience with exceptionally friendly guide.  Tokyo Tower Observatory, Traditional Tea Ceremony at Happo-en Garden (yes, I even joined in - the tea was very bitter), a traditional garden in the middle of Tokyo.  500year old Bonsai! Lunch was a traditional Japanese style barbecue at Chinzan-so another stunning Japanese garden created ~ 1860's.  Imperial Palace Plaza and Nijubashi bridge, Sumida River Cruise, Nakamise Shopping Arcade at Asakusa and drive through Ginza.  Big day, but very enjoyable.
Day 7 - Quilt Show Melanie visited Ueno zoo to see the pandas, then we both found our way to Ikebukuro for some serious shopping that evening.  Found a Post office - posted a surprise parcel to myself!
Day 8 - Shinkansen (Bullet train) to Kyoto,  Flew past lots of heavily snow covered areas and was fortunate to see Mt Fuji.  We were told that due to cloud and mist it could only be seen about 60 days each year, and we've seen it twice in our short visit.  Also very interesting to see the countryside.  It appears either very flat or very mountainous.   Afternoon - Kyoto Handicraft Centre.  Pm New Miyako Hotel (Very nice!!!)
Day 9 -  Kyoto Morning Tour - Nishi Honganji Temple, Nijo Castle - Tokugawa family home of the last Shogun (stunning) and Rokuon-Ji Temple - The Golden Pavillion (Budhist Temple).  Exceptionally cold day - very hard to take in all the information given, as it is so cold!  My fingers hurt to bend and I think my nose is running and I have no control over it.  Surely it will snow later today.  We leave to return to Tokyo on the Shinkansen, mid afternoon.  Dinner - little Ramen store just down from Hotel.  Great food and very cheap!
Day 10 -
and home to Australia.

That's all for now.
Cheers, Bev

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Hello from Japan...

Where do I start?  I went from an incredibly hot, humid day in Brisbane feeling - decidedly uncomfortable in the humid heat, to a wet, overcast, cold day in Tokyo where agin I feel decidedly uncomfortable in the cold, with only a few hours travel in between.  But how wonderful it is.

The morning we arrived (I'm here with Melanie, my daughter) there were even snow drops falling.  We are staying in Bunkyo Bunkyo near the Japan Medical & Dental Universities at a place I found on the internet.

We had a choice of 'western' rooms, but by accident I booked a traditional Japanese room.  We enter a little foyer where I almost feel I should bend because the ceiling is quite low.  Off to the right is a tiny bathroom - the toilet is in an area smaller than a closet, and the bathroom contains a traditional Japanese bath - about 90cm deep and maybe that square, with a tiled floor.  You're supposed to wash yourself off with the handheld shower beside the bath before immersing yourself.  I've got to admit, I haven't tried the bath yet - the shower works just fine and I'm not sure there'd be enough hot water for me to try a bath just yet.

After the foyer we enter what I'd call the sitting room.  There are tatami mats on the floor (you must take your shoes off and leave them at the front door), rice paper screens over the windows and dividing the room from the sleeping area, and a small low table with two cushions on the floor where we sit.  We sleep on futons in the next room.  It's all very thrilling, and although Melanie will tell you I've grumbled a bit about getting up and down from the floor, I'm sure I will be much healthier and considerably more flexible when I get home to Australia.

Travelling around Tokyo is not proving an issue at all. They have an amazing train and subway network (fortunately Melanie seems to manage it all very well), and this is how we get around. It's very cheap, clean and efficient! 

Day 1 we head to Ikebukuro looking for a shop we'd read about called Loft. Despite me seeing it written on top of a building (a few stories up), we spent several hours wandering around (very happily) many shops without finding it.   I did find a wonderful shop that sold the most beautiful paper I have ever seen and everywhere we went people greet us as we enter and call out (I'm assuming to thank us as we leave).

Day 2 we head to the Tokyo Dome for the Tokyo International Quilt Festival. I have many, many photos but if you'd like to see some check out Melaniemade on flickr (I'm not sure how flickr works, but if you google melaniemade flickr, I'm sure you'll find something) - she's loaded many that she took. The quilts are breathtaking in the detail that is included and most are hand quilted in amazing patterns. Initially I was surprised by the lack of colour, however this isn't a true description. In Australia, I think we use quite dramatic, hit you in the face type colours and designs, where here the work and colours are subtle, drawing you into the design which is very complex and precise. I feel very humble when I think of my own patchwork efforts.
This isn't the best picture, but I'm hoping you'll get an idea of the size of the Quilt Show.  The Tokyo Dome is mostly used as a baseball stadium and this is taken from the top of the steps going down to floor level.  We got there very early in the morning and already the crowd is huge. 

It's very cold today and that night as we are sitting very comfortably in the heated room, I open the screen to see what the strange noise is.  Would you believe it is snowing!  Being Queenslanders we have to grab our coates, shoes and camera and head down to actually feel it!  I've just realized that I've managed to lose the photos (not happy), but I do have the one I took fom the top of the Hotel the next morning.  Already the hotel staff have swept away most of the snow, but you can still see it if you look closely.  I've got to tell you however that that tiled floor is incredibly slippery with ice.

Looking over the balcony, you can see what remains on the street.  Already everyone has been out cleaning the road and the footpath.  Apparently there was about 6inches of snow fall.

Day 3 - Harajuku - a fun shopping destination for Melanie.  Lots of amazing little alleyways and shops with lots to look at.  The focal point of Harajuku's teenage culture is Takeshita Dori (Takeshita Street) and its side streets, which are lined by many trendy shops, fashion boutiques, used clothes stores, crepe stands and fast food outlets geared towards the fashion and trend conscious teens.
We were there on a Sunday, when many young people gather around Harajuku Station and engage in cosplay ("costume play"), dressed up in crazy costumes to resemble anime characters, punk musicians, etc.

  See how narrow the street is.

Just south of Takeshita Dori is Omotesando, a broad, tree lined avenue sometimes referred to as Tokyo's Champs-Elysees. Here you can find famous brand name shops, cafes and restaurants for a more adult clientele. The stylish Omotesando Hills complex is home amongst many other designer brand shopes, to Jimmy Choos and it took some time to drag Melanie awy from a devine pair of shoes that just weren't meant for her! 

Melanie's just growled and reminded me I'm not supposed to be writing an essay, so I'd better get going, we've off to Nippori the fabric district today and I suspect my luggage limit on the airplane may just be stretched.

Cheers, Bev

Thursday, 5 January 2012


I've found a great blog resource that's got me quite inspired for 2012!  The 2012 Free Motion Quilting Challenge so I'm joining in.  Be sure to check it out, it just may inspire you too.  I have several quilts here just waiting for me to get to them, so joining this Challenge should be just the kick I need.  Here are the quilts I'd like to get to, some of them have now been waiting 2 years or more for attention.

This one's 9Patch with Attitdue - from the book
Geometric Gems - Quilts from Diamonds, Circles and Squares by
 Cathy Wierzbicki

This ones Starstruck from Majella at Kookaburra Cottage Quilts

This is destined to be a tablecloth, inspired by one of Peggy's workshops when we had the shop together

From a class with Susan Porter at the 2011 AQM, called Tessellation Quilts

Finally, a favourite.  I was co-owner (with previously mentioned Peggy) of a Patchwork Shop
Just for fun, we came up with a Challenge - we called it the White Elephant Challenge and
this is my quilt.  For anyone interested, if you go back through the archive from the shop blog, you'll find pictures from the other participants.
So, heaps to do, it will be a fun year.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Happy New Year

Hello All,

I do hope my readers had a wonderful Christmas!  Mine was spent around the pool at my sisters home in Brisbane.  A warm day - not too hot,  just perfect for such a merry day.  Carmel's only request was that everyone bring a water pistol and this set the tone for the day, along with a game of backyard cricket, water slide and of course lots of lovely food.  She actually met all her visitors (there were about 20 of us there for lunch) with her version of a mango slushie, and I can recommend them.   Simply, take a container of Mango Sorbet (she used Weiss brand) and a bottle of (not expensive) bubbly, mash the sorbet with a potato masher and mix with the bubbly and serve.  Delicious!  A great way to start Christmas in Australia.

Gifts were exchanged and opened next.  Only Carmel could get away with it, but her gifts were mostly regifted ones!  She had visited Emerald only the week before Christmas to spend the weekend helping our Mum and Dad who have sold their home here and are moving to a Retirement Village in Cooroy (Sunshire Coast).  Going from their 5 bedroom home of nearly 40 years to a small 2 bedroom home is taking some doing, but Carmel selected many items to bring home with here that she decided would make great gifts for her guests (these were no treasures, only what remained after a garage sale).

This caused much amusement for all the recipients and Carmel, yes we were all impressed with the thoughtfulness you put into each and every gift and look forward to many more Christmas occasions where we will be able to reciprocate in kind!

On a more serious note, I was delighted to finally be able to open the remaining two parcels sent to me by Satu in the SSCS swap.   I love them, thank you, thank you, thank you to Satu for making such delightful gifts and sending them all the way from Finland, and to Donna, alias Chookyblue in Australia for organising the swap..

First parcel

A beautiful little quilt, hand appliqued and quilted, made from some Kaffe Fassett fabrics.  It is delightful and will be proudly hung in my sewing room.

Second parcel

A lovely little purse, complete with my name embroidered on it.  I have alread filled it with my favourite scissors and a few threads from the applique project I am currently working on.

My gifts are lovely and certainly make me feel special!  I have emailed Satu to thank her, she clearly is a busy lady who loves all things craft.  Satu has a gorgeous blog, so please be sure to have a look - Satu's Blog.

So now it's 2012.  Do you have any plans or resolutions?  As always I have a few, although I refuse to call them resolutions.  As always,  I'd really like to finish some of the projects I am currently working on and I'm actually hoping to slow down a little and stay home more!  But it won't happen in January - I'm off to Brisbane/Cooroy next week to move Mum & Dad, then I'm home for 4 days AND THEN Melanie (daughter) & I are taking our first ever trip overseas!... We are going to Japan for 10 days.  We have a lot planned to fit into the 10 days, the highlight of which is the Tokyo International Quilt Festival.   However, if anyone has any suggestions of things to do, places to see while we are in Japan, please let me know.  It's all very, very exciting!

I'm off to do some work, I do wish everyone a Very Happy and Prosperous Year for 2012 and look forward to continuing to stay in contact via my Blog.

Regards, Bev