Sunday, September 30, 2012

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Shhh, Ted's sleeping

After traveling more than 24 hours, my one year old husband is back in Hokkaido.  I met him at the airport last night and we took the train back home together.  I remember how disoriented I felt almost ten months ago when I arrived from the US.  He’s traveled there and back in the space of a month, so I know it is even harder for him.  I wonder if there have been any studies on whether this kind of time travel gets harder as one ages. At 50, nothing seems to bounce back as fast as when we were 20.  I’ll just have a cup of tea and quietly work on my little toolies.

I finished the stitching part of the project and just need to finish by putting them together. 

I wish I had taken some notes about what to do! I’m sure the teacher went over the finishing directions, but that was five years ago and I don’t remember anything she said. When I figure it out and finish, I’ll post pictures.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Today's the Day

Have you noticed there have been no photos of Ted the last few weeks? That’s because he has been in the US and I’ve been here in Hokkaido.  He’s coming home today and I can hardly wait!  He visited friends and family, including his mom, who recently moved to a long term care facility; he attended a college reunion; he researched climbing walls and facilities because a new climbing wall will be built next year where he works here; he fished and hiked a little, although I’m sure he’ll say not enough.  He packed a lot into the time he was there, but today he is coming home.

The timing of his trip was the reason why I had to be so diligent with stitching the teacup afghan for his mom.  Here is a photo Ted took with his iPad and emailed to me.

The fall semester starts on Monday, so Ted is going to have to get back on Japan time quick.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Never Enough Little Toolies

One never has enough little toolies. This was a class I took at the Chicago EGA National Seminar, a little stitching toolie set consisting of a needle book, a thimble cover and a scissors cover.  The project is on 32 count white linen, stitched with over-dyed silk and perle cotton in blue, yellow, and green.  The teacher and designer was Marianna Surface Markham.  I had stitched a fair amount then put it down without finishing it.  I saw when I pulled it out that there was a counting mistake in the scissors cover. After unstitching and fixing the mistake, I am ready to work on it again.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Birthday Present Album

Later this week, Okuda San will be celebrating her birthday.  I decided to make her a little album as a gift.  I had pictures printed of things we’ve done together – stitching, dinners, festivals, etc. 

Then, I made up some simple pages.  I’ll give her a scrapbooking pen so she can journal in Japanese. Here are a few of the pages -

Do you think she will like it?

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Mark Twain’s 1601

I’ve read a lot of Mark Twain, but until recently hadn’t come across the book 1601, or Conversation As It Was at the Social Fireside in the Time of the Tudors. It was written in 1871, published anonymously in 1880, and finally claimed by Mark Twain in 1906.  According to, “1601,” wrote Mark Twain, “is a supposititious conversation which takes place in Queen Elizabeth’s closet in that year, between the Queen, Ben Jonson, Beaumont, Sir Walter Raleigh, the Duchess of Bilgewater, and one or two others … If there is a decent word findable in it, it is because I overlooked it.” 1601 depicts a highfalutin and earthy discussion between the Queen and her court about farting and a variety of sexual peccadillos, narrated disapprovingly and sanctimoniously by the Queen’s Cup-Bearer, an eyewitness at “the Social Fireside.”

 (It’s a short book, maybe about 40 pages, and is available free to download in written or audio form.) I’m sure it was absolutely scandalous in the late 1800’s.  No wonder Mark Twain didn’t claim it for so long!  Looking at my Elizabeth, I’m pretty sure she would never be part of such a conversation.

I’m continuing to work here and there and not follow the order of the directions. I finished the blackwork sleeves, worked on the second layer of the wings – putting in the stem stitch on top of the tent stitches, and outlined the veil.

The wing on her left has only the tent stitch.  The one on her right has the stem stitch on top of the tent stitch.

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Queen's Sleeves

Yesterday I worked on the blackwork pattern on the Queen’s sleeves. The first step was like an outline.

The second part is filling in some areas to give the sleeves depth.  I’m nearly finished with her left sleeve and plan to work on the right one today.

It feels like her personality is developing along with her portrait.

Sad Panda News
I received this email message from the National Zoo a couple of hours ago:
Smithsonia​n's National Zoo Mourns Loss of Giant Panda Cub
Dear Pamela,

We are brokenhearted to share that we have lost our little giant panda cub. Panda keepers and volunteers heard Mei Xiang make a distress vocalization at 9:17 a.m. and let the veterinarian staff know immediately. They turned off the panda cam and were able to safely retrieve the cub for an evaluation at 10:22 a.m., which we only do in situations of gravest concern. The veterinarians immediately performed CPR and other life-saving measures, but sadly the cub was unresponsive. We’ll have more updates as we learn more, but right now we know is that the cub weighed just under 100 grams and that there was no outward sign of trauma or infection. We’ll share information with you as we learn more.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

IPhone 5 in Japan

I don’t have a phone of any kind, so I don’t even pretend to know anything about them, but I have been following the news on the introduction of the new iPhone.  I’ve seen the pictures of the long lines of people waiting to acquire the new gadget and can’t help thinking how much the telephone has changed in my lifetime.

Last week I read an article on the JapanTimes Online website about the cost of service in Japan for the new iPhone.  Both KDDI and SoftBank ”will launch a high-speed mobile data communications service using the lte network when the new iPhone is launched, both setting the flat-rate data charge for the lte service for the iPhone at ¥5,460 per month. The two companies will offer the 32-gigabyte model at ¥10,320 and the 64-gigabyte model at ¥20,640.”  I’m sure I don’t need anything that costs that much.

In another phone related article, JapanTimes Online reported that people living in Tokyo pay the highest smartphone bills among seven major cities in the world.  According to the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry, the reason for this is the expensive data communications fees and yen’s strength.  The average monthly bill for someone in Tokyo who talks 61 minutes and sends and receives 438 email messages was 7357 yen. Dusseldorf was in second place with the average monthly bill at the equivalent of 7012 yen, and New York at 6493 yen.  London, Paris, and Stockholm were each between 3000 and 4000 yen, and Seoul at 2702 yen.  The exchange rate is a little over 78 yen to the US dollar right now.

The Queen’s progress
Elizabeth could have afforded the new iPhone, but I don’t think she would have wanted one.

I’ve been working on her cuffs.  Most of the stitches are done with white perle cotton #12, so you may not realize how much detail there is. There are ten steps to each cuff!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Autumnal Equinox Day

Today is the national holiday, Autumnal Equinox Day.  This holiday was established in 1948 as a day to honor one's ancestors and remember the dead. Prior to 1948, the autumnal equinox was an imperial ancestor worship festival called Shūki kōrei-sai. This is not a Happy Monday Holiday.

The Queen is taking a nap
I decided to take a break from the Queen and I pulled out this small Blackwork ornament kit that I purchased from Marion Scoular. The kit contains everything but the thread and fabric for backing: the directions, written in Marion’s unique script; the four inch ornament finishing form; three needles; flannel padding; template; and sparkly fabric for stitching the design. 

She had a lot of different designs for these ornament kits and also sold the finishing forms separately, if you wanted to make more than one ornament or use your own design.  I chose the daffodil pattern.  Her patterns are always easy to understand and the charted design even shows the path to make the design reversible. The design is stitched with one strand of DMC floss.  After stitching the design, I covered one side of the ornament form with the stitched design and the other with fabric.

I stitched the two together and added some twisted cord for the hanger.  I was happy with how I joined them together so I decided not to put cording all the way around. Start to finish in a day!

Friday, September 21, 2012

If I Need to Escape

In the morning, I heard something on my balcony and when I went out to look, I saw some feet on the fire escape, going back up  to the fourth floor apartment. That was it for the rest of the morning.

bedroom window on right

Later in the afternoon, I heard the fire escape again and saw the inspector going down to the balcony on the second floor. 

It was all in working order.  It’s good to know that if I need to escape, I can.

The Queen and I had a good day.  I was able to count better yesterday and finished the over skirt and the blackwork pattern on the under skirt.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Royal Family

Most Americans are familiar with the royal family in Great Britain.  I wonder how many know anything about the Emperor of Japan and his family.  I have to admit, I have heard or read very little about the Japanese Emperor and his family.  I remember reading about the Prince getting married in the early 90’s and about the births of their children.  In February, while we were living here, we learned the Emperor was in the hospital, but I don’t think I would have known that in the US. This isn't even a drop in the bucket compared with the news coverage of the Queen Elizabeth II and her family.  Why do you think that is? Is it the Japanese culture?  Is it the language differences? Do the Japanese behave themselves so they don’t end up in the tabloids? In the US we get some of the royals in the history classes, but I don’t remember anything about Japan’s emperors.  I need the English translation of the Japanese elementary student’s history book.

The Imperial House of Japan is the oldest continuing hereditary monarchy in the world. The current Japanese law excludes women from the throne, although this may have changed had the Crown Prince and Princess not had a male child. The Emperor of Japan is the only monarch in the world with the title of “Emperor”.  The Emperor is the head of the Shinto religion, as he and his family are believed the direct descendants of God. He is a ceremonial figure with head of state functions as part of the constitutional monarchy in Japan.

Emperor Akihito has been Emperor since his father died in 1989. He was fifth child and the oldest son of Emperor Hirohito, the Showa Emperor. In 1959, he married Michiko Shoda.  They have three children, two sons and a daughter. The oldest child, Crown Prince Naruhito is the heir apparent to the throne. He married Masako Owada in 1993, and they have three children, two girls and the youngest, a boy.

Back to Elizabeth I
Elizabeth was born in 1533 to parents Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII’s second wife.  I know – a long time ago!

Are you wondering why I picked out this project and not one of my many other unfinished stitching projects to work on now?  Well, I recently purchased the kits for two companion pieces, Mary Queen of Scots and Bess of Harwick.  You can see a photo of the three together on the website of Gay Ann Rogers. I don’t have the kits in hand yet, but they are on their way.  These three projects are probably the most expensive I have (although the dragons are up there, too). Silk threads and jewels are pricey, but so pretty. I have a weakness for things that match or go together.

I’ve put a few more stitches in my Elizabeth, still jumping around a bit instead of going in the order of the directions. I did more of the tiny tent stitches under the arms and in the front of the skirt.  The front skirt area and the sleeves will later be covered by blackwork and this light gray tent stitch will be like a shadow. I had a hard time getting started on the overskirt. I made mistakes on the count and had to reverse stitch several times.  After I put in a couple of rows it did get a little easier.

I planned to work the directions in order, but that meant working on the ruff (that big white thing around her neck). Maybe after I get a little more done, I’ll go back to the ruff. This is how she looks now.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Giant Pandas in Japan

As you may already know, the panda is my favorite animal. The big news this week is that Mei Xiang at the National Zoo in Washington DC has given birth! This is the second birth to this panda, the first one in 2005. There was another baby panda born at the San Diego Zoo on 29 July.

For years in the US I followed the pandas by panda cam on the websites of the four US zoos in Atlanta, San Diego, Memphis, and Washington DC. The Giant Panda is endangered as there are only about 1600 pandas in the wild in China, and about 35 in zoos outside China.

There are a couple of zoos but no giant pandas in Hokkaido, but there are several in zoos elsewhere in Japan with pandas. According to Pandas International’s web site, these are the giant pandas and locations in Japan.

Adventure World Shirahama
Nanki-Shirahama, Wakayama, Japan

Official website:

Ei Mei (male) was born on September 14, 1992 at the Beijing Zoo.
His mother is Yun Yun  and his father is Liang Liang .
He moved to the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in May 1994. He came to Adventure World on September 6, 1994.

Rau Hin (female) was born on September 6, 2000 at Adventure World.
Her mother is Mei Mei  and her father is Ha Lan.
She is the first cub to be born at Adventure World. She was the first Japanese born panda to reproduce, when she became the mother of a set of twins on September 13, 2008.

Ai Hin (female) & Mei Hin (male) were born on December 23, 2006 at Adventure World.
Their mother is Mei Mei (and their father is Ei Mei.
They are the eighth and ninth cub to be born at Adventure World.

Mei Hin (female) & Ei Hin (male) were born on September 13, 2008 at Adventure World.
Their mother is Rau Hin  and their father is Ei Mei.
They are the tenth and eleventh cub to be born at Adventure World.

Kobe Oji Zoo
Kobe, Japan

Official website:

Tan Tan (female) was born on September 16, 1996 at the China Conservation and Research Center for Giant Panda in Wolong.
Her mother is Dong Dong  and her father is Zhen Zhen.

Ko Ko II (male) was born on September 14, 1995 at the China Conservation and Research Center for Giant Panda in Wolong.
His mother is Jia Jia  and his father is Pan Pan.

Cubs born to the pair: 2007 and 2008 neither survived

Tokyo’s Ueno Zoo
Toyko, Japan
Official Web site:

Bi Li (male) August 16, 2005 at the China Conservation and Research Center for Giant Panda in Wolong. His mother is Ghong Zhu.

Xian Nu (female) July 3, 2005 at the China Conservation and Research Center for Giant Panda in Wolong. Her mother is Ying Ying.

Pandas are very popular in Japan, especially big headed cartoon type pandas.  Ted is very sweet and sometimes brings me a little box of panda cookies from the university c-store and other little pandas.

The Queen
I spent quite a bit of time stitching yesterday, but it doesn’t look like I completed much. I finished the gold braid down the center of the dress, finished the little gold and charcoal part of the dress below her right hand, finished the gray shading (tiny tent stitch) of the sleeves, worked on the hair. Tomorrow’s another day.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

About the Queen

Elizabeth I is a class I took at Calloway School of Needlearts. The piece was designed and taught by Gay Ann Rogers, with the help of Carole Lake giving the history lesson and Michael Boren for technical support.

This class was very large, taking place in two class rooms, with the teachers going back and forth. While one classroom was getting stitching instruction, the other was stitching and getting the history lesson on the Tudors and the Queen’s reign, fashion, jewelry, etc. during that time period. Some people didn’t care about the historical background, but I thought it was very interesting and afterward did some additional reading about Elizabeth and the Tudors.

 The piece is done on Congress cloth and is not large, especially for all the detail there is. Most of the areas are layered with more than one stitch, then covered with the jewels at the end.  A lot of what I have done so far is the bottom layer of the diagonal tent stitch. Diagonal tent stitches on congress cloth are tiny and very time consuming. For the background, the bottom layer has to be covered with the tent stitch so that the white canvas doesn’t show through the patterned stitch on top.

You can see a gallery of finished pieces by my classmates on the web site of the designer/teacher Gay Ann Roger . I think there are probably more people who finished and didn't send photos, but there are also a lot of people like me who are still working.

I haven’t done a lot since I pulled this out a few days ago. I’ve worked in a few different areas, trying to finish off some loose ends, but not much on any one area. I worked on the gold braid down the center and a little of the background to see how it will look.  I’ll probably go back to the directions and work page by page.


Monday, September 17, 2012

Part Three of the Festival Weekend

I went to the Annual "Hyappei" Rice-cake pounding Festival with Vicky the English teacher on Saturday and with my neighbors on Sunday.  This festival has been running for over 100 years. The festival goers were able to help make mochi (rice cakes) with the world's heaviest pestle (200kg) pounding 60kg of rice in the world's largest mortar several times each day.

Saturday we walked to this festival after attending the other two festivals.  On Sunday I rode the bus with my neighbors to get downtown because the little neighbor has little legs.

There were food and game booths.  Children like this one, “fishing” for a balloon with water in it. The balloon has a stretch rubber band thing on it and is called a yo-yo.

Both days I saw the same street performer who did some magic and juggling.  He solved the rubic cube and ate the fire after he juggled it. He was very entertaining and I enjoyed both shows.  Even though I didn’t understand the words he was saying (Japanese), I could understand him because he was such a good performer.


I think the others in the crowd liked him as much as I did.

We also saw some Japanese drum performers.  I love being able to see and experience Japanese culture.

On Sunday, we helped with the mochi making. The mortar and pestle are on this big stage at the intersection of two streets and they are HUGE. 

There was a ceremony with the workers dancing around and putting the ingredients into the mortar. 

The festival goers lined up in four long lines and were given instruction on what to do. There were four big thick ropes attached to the pestle.  Each line pulled on the rope to raise the 200 kg. pestle, then let go of it on signal, so the pestle would drop down on the mochi mixture. I had visions of people not letting go and getting pulled with the rope but that didn’t happen.

After that was all done, people lined up for several blocks to get a little bowl of the mochi with red beans.  Each batch made enough for 1200 people to eat! This probably wouldn’t pass health department standards in the US and I’m usually kind of squeamish about eating things out in the open, but I wanted to do the whole festival thing and it was really good.

I’m always amazed at how people here can just crouch down and stay that way.  I’m better off standing.


Dogs here are always well dressed, especially at the festivals.


Tatsuma found all kinds of things to like about the festival.

I really enjoyed the weekend of festivals.  What fun! Tomorrow I will be back with the Queen.