| Stationery | Kakuno Pens

Carrying on from where I left off with my recommended fountain pens for newbies, here is the happiest pen about. Literally. Pilot's Kakuno pen with its smiley winking nib was created with school kids in mind but is just as brilliant as both a casual pen and an entry level pen too.

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Here are a few thoughts about the Kakuno Fountain pen that might be helpful:

- Made of lightweight durable plastic and available in a either dark grey or white body with an assorted choice of coloured caps.

- Japanese steel nibs in a choice of medium or fine but as these are Japanese standard, they may be classed as fine and extra-fine.

- Gently faceted plastic grip section that encourages proper positioning of the pen. I find it more comfortable in my hand than the more angular Lamy Safari.

- Writes smoothly with a silky way of gliding across the page (comparable to more expensive Pilot Prera). 

- Maintenance is simple as it comes apart easily for cleaning and the nib and grip section can be soaked in water for deep cleaning. 

- Takes standard Pilot cartridges that are available in limited colours in UK but more shades can be found in Asia and USA. Also compatible with the Pilot CON-20 or CON-50 converter if you want to use bottled ink.

- The cap is ventilated for safety and hexagonal in shape to stop it from rolling away. No clip on the cap. 

- The cutest fountain pen around! Great value for money. I paid about £6.00 per pen when I bought them in Japan earlier this year. They are available in UK via Cult Pens.

I love the simple clean design and low cost matched with reliable and slick performance and really believe that this pen will continue to gain fans across the globe. Definitely worth trying if you can!

For More Info | Check out the range of colours via the Japanese website HERE 

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| Photo Diary | The Micrarium

We found ourselves in an unusual place this weekend. This is The Micrarium - a curious place within an even more curious place.

The learned folks at the Grant Musuem of Zoology have converted an old office into a back-lit enclave to display over 2000 slides in a floor to ceiling installation of our microscopic neighbours. Apparently 95% of species in the animal kingdom are smaller than our thumbs. But as they tend to make most squeamish rather than curious, they get less attention that the larger fluffier members of the animal kingdom. Yet, seeing all these specimens arranged like this makes it quite mesmerising and oddly beautiful to me at least.

For The Curious | There is a great little video of the making of The Micrarium HERE 

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| Objects | Off The Ground

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In a small bowl that sits quietly on a shelf in our home, rests little things that we have picked off the ground and brought home with us over the years:

A large shell and sections of red coral that Hiro found in Zanzibar in 2006.
A rusty screw that I picked up on a diamond mine in South Africa.
Chunks of lapis and amazonite that I took from my father's garden.
A pine cone found near Eastbourne.
A sloping tile that we found amid abandoned bathhouses in Japan.
A piece of pretty blue pottery found by lake Biwa in Japan
A slither of stone found in Brighton
2 tiny striking shells that a friend brought back from New Zealand.

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| Photo Diary | Alykanas

For some reason, the Greek Islands is one of those holiday destinations that some people jump on their high-horse and get fresh about. People talk about the "nicer islands" and upmarket expensive resorts but the truth is that there are gems to be sought out if you have an open mind and the will to look.

Our first couple of holidays together were to the Greek Islands and we have such happy memories of our budget getaways that it felt right to revisit them again this year. We went towards the end of the season when the crowds had gone, the weather still glorious and the price very friendly!

Our budget holiday included flights, self-catering apartment accommodation and transfers to and from the airport. Most of our adventures recently involve kilometres of walking and trying to decipher various public transport systems so it felt amazing to be hapless beach-bums for a while. 

Hat from GAP. Sandals from iPANEMA, Backpack from EASTPAK, Bikini from Primark, Kaftan is a vintage buy.

Our destination was a sleepy little place called Alykanas on the island of Zakynthos. We didn't pay much for this package deal so our expectations were low but the beach (which was just a 3 minute stroll away from our apartment) took us aback. Crystal clear clean seawater that was both shallow and warm made the trip very special indeed!

I read a lot of books on this beach. I stared at the sea and wondered what you call those patterns that sunlight coruscates through  the waves. I ate a lot of peaches and even indulged in my 1st €2 chicken gyros. It was a beautiful time.

I would recommend Alykanas to anyone looking for a quick and reasonable getaway from London or Manchester. There are some great deals out there.

For The Curious | A good place to start looking for a deal | More of our Greek adventures |

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| Abandoned | Vestiges

We should not have been in here, we know that. But we could not resist an unwatched staircase and a door left ajar. 

The stuff that people leave behind when they abandon a building is so interesting. Sometimes even more interesting than the building itself.

For The Curious | See More of Our Adventures in Abandoned Places HERE 

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| Lists | Christmas Home

The Christmas spirit has unexpectedly snuck up on me this year, and I am firmly placing the blame on the mischievous little Tomte that snuck back with us this Sunday!

According to ancient folklore, Tomtes are Scandinavian gnomes that are mostly genial creatures secretly residing along humans (under the floorboards, in a pantry or barn) and helping out when they can. However, they can be temperamental and will play all sorts of naughty tricks on a person when offended. Many Scandinavians still put out a bowl of steaming Christmas porridge with butter on Christmas eve to keep the Tomte happy in the year to come.

My particular Tomte has been renamed "Hige-chan" and he was designed by Åsa Götander. According to Skandium He is made "with wool from the free roaming sheep found on the Swedish island of Gotland, which are unique in quality. Using their curly grey wool along with warm water and soap, we create a felt that is then handshaped into caps. The wool is also is turned into beards and hair. We also use sheepskin from arctic Icelandic sheep, which have a long straight fleece in a variety of colours. Each gnome is slightly different, giving them an individual personality". And it is true, each and every gnome we looked at had a look and feel of its own.

Hige-chan has inspired festive thinking and I am slowly collecting a few items for the house this Christmas. In my opinion the Scandinavians are jolly good at tasteful Christmas decorations the sort that anyone would want to keep for years to come,so this is where I am looking for inspiration:

Mobile by Flensted Mobiles + Santa Boy + Girl by Larrsons Tra + Tree Cards by Anne Paso + Deer Rotary Candle Holder by Hans Hallberg

Each year the folks at Arabia release a winter season mini mug set that are great for the tree or decorating presents with. Being a Moomin fan, I would give away 2 and keep 2 for our tree - when we actually bother to buy one! Available HERE 

Georg Jensen's December Tales collection includes these beautiful mirror polished stainless steel ornaments that would look wonderful strung from strategic parts of the ceiling where the light can play with the cut-work and make magical silhouettes on the walls! Available HERE

Aside from the smorgasbord of festive decorations, I've also bought some Joulutorttu (Finnish jam tarts), some glögg and even a box of Annas Pepparkakor (ginger snaps) ready for Christmas eve.

Are you also inspired by Scandinavian Christmas ideas? 

If you are looking to buy some Scandinavian treats you the Scandikitchen has got you sorted!
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