| Stationery | Lamy Safari Fountain Pens

Since I begun to divulge my fixation with fountain pens on the blog,  requests for advice also begun to steadily trickle into our inbox. I am so pleased that not everyone thinks I am an old-fashioned eccentric and that some are even eager to risk inky fingers and splattered pages to give the fountain pen a go.

It seems that most people that get in touch are looking for recommendations for a good starter fountain pen that won't break the bank to try out. I actually have a few in mind but for now, let's start with the Lamy Safari.

Here are few quick fire pointers about the Lamy Safari Fountain pen that might be helpful to know:

- Made of lightweight, sturdy and durable ABS plastic and available in a host of colours including an annual Limited Edition shade which I find irresistible

- Pens are available in a choice of nibs in either polished steel or coated black finish they easily interchangeable and cost less than £3

- Triangular moulded plastic ergonomic grip that I like but some find uncomfortable

- Writes very smoothly and seemlessly no scratching of pages but can be on the wet side. So, depending on the ink it may take a bit longer to dry and may bleed through to the reverse page depending on the paper you use

- Maintenance is simple as it comes apart easily for cleaning

- Takes specific Lamy cartridges though Monteverde also make Lamy compatible cartridges. I mainly use mine with an LZ24 piston converter so I can make use of all the bottled inks that I have

- Has a flexible self-sprung chrome wire clip

- Affordable, reliable and good value for money and cost less than £15.00

- Designed by Wolfgang Fabian and has remained in production since 1980.

Aside from the Lamy Safari, the clear Vista is equally good. Lamy Joy (the white long pen pictured)is a good starter calligraphy pen. 

Now if you are wondering why I love fountain pens so much I would answer, that they are to me, the ultimate writing experience. I like watching the ink become words and the way they a fountain pen  slowly conforms to my hand, pressure and writing habits. It's personal just like my handwriting. 

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| Photo Diary | São Bento

We whizz through a lot of train stations on our gallivants many of which dim into one big  featureless blur of tracks and cement. There are few that do stand out in our memory for various reasons and one such remarkable station is São Bento in Porto.

São Bento is visually arresting. Its interior of 20,000 tin glazed azulejos (hand painted tiles) is both breathtaking an astounding feat in itself. Which is why we found ourselves lurking in the station despite having no where to go and no reason to be there other than to stand and gawp.

São Bento was built on the site of a Benedictine Monastery that was torn down in 1783. The construction of the station begun in 1900 and the famous tile painter of the time Jorge Colaço was commissioned to work on the interior. It took him 11 years to complete what we see today.

We visited São Bento at the tail end of the day when passengers were dwindling and shadows were tilting their way into residence. Perfect timing as the golden glow blossoming from the tinted windows was quite magical.

Portugal has a few stunning train stations another of our favourites is this one in Lisbon.

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| Food | Empanada Fam

We reckon that we're splendidly lucky to have a market right on our doorstep. It's just a small one, but what Ridley Road lacks in size, it certainly makes up for its variety of sights, sounds and smells. It is like having a chunk of the world on our doorstep. Jamaican groceries, West African dried goods, Indian spices, Jerk Chicken, Roasted Corn, Middle Eastern bread, fabric, haberdashery, black hair and beauty goods, Ethiopian stews, Trinidadian rotis, fruit and veg by the bowl-full and my current favourite things......Colombian empanadas freshly made and hot out of the fryer to keep my hands warm and my belly happy!

There were some anxious weeks when our Colombian friends vanished from the market which caused some moping about on my part. Happily, they did return and I was so happy to see them that I ran up to them to welcome them back. I think they were bemused with my jittery enthusiasm. Now whenever I see the Colombian flag aloft in the market, I know it will be a good day!

Colombian empanadas are a popular fried snack made using a coarse yellow or white corn flour wrap stuffed with stewed beef, pork or chicken and potatoes. They are usually eaten with Hogao which is a type of relish made of tomato, onions, chillies and coriander. If you are east African is similar to kachumbari. 

Now we are no means experts on empanadas but we have tried quite a few in London. The fab little South American market in Seven Sisters do some great ones (if you have not been here yet, you really must! It's not like being in London at all!). The little eateries beneath the railway arches in Elephant & Castle also have some tasty offerings. However, none can beat the ones we get on Ridley Road for just £1 each.

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| Home | Kastehelmi

Though I have had them for a while, these jewel-like glass dishes bring delight each time I use them.

They are part of the Kastehelmi range made by Finnish manufacturer Iittala and designed by Oiva Toikka in 1964.

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The outside of each dish is dotted with concentric circles of raised "dew-drops" (kastehelmi is the Finnish word for dew-drop). Personally I love the beautiful reflections and way that light waltzes though the textures of the glass.

Though these dishes are glass and may look delicate, they are robust, built for daily use and can take dishwashing and microwaving no problem. 

These particular Kastehelmi dishes are machine manufactured in Finland in the Iittala and Nuutajärvi glass factories who are specialists in the production of  high quality coloured glass of excellent optical clarity. 

We have long been fans of Iittala's dedication to creating beautiful objects and their belief in "timeless design that will never be thrown away".

USEFUL LINKS | We bought ours at Skandium | Official Iittala website |

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| Abandoned | Pub

Pubs in England are more than boozy watering holes. They are part of the history and fabric of life here and have been throughout history.

Even though we don't often visit pubs, seeing more and more of these establishments fall into a state of deterioration is still sad to see. In August this year the Guardian reported that 31 pubs close every week in the UK. Many factors contribute to closures, the smoking ban, economic down turn, changes in social lifestyles etc. Though many are snapped up by developers and turned into flats or other things a few are left to face decay. 

USEFUL LINKS | Take a look at more of abandoned places that we've visited 
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| Food | Japanese Bakery

There is a little bakery located in a large supermarket close to the place we call home in Japan and it has serious pulling power!  Such is its irresistibleness that I find it very difficult to walk past without popping in to see what new delights are on offer.

Here are a few things that wound up in my belly on our last trip:

Sweet potato bread. In Japan you can get purple sweet potatoes and these are delicious beyond belief. I just had to try one as I have not seen these anywhere else. Chewy, mildly sweet and really filling!
Kare-pan! Japanese curry bread. Basically a soft bun stuffed with japanese-style veg curry. Super popular outside of Japan too but it's near impossible to get them while they are still warm over here. I can't resist! 
Barbecue beef and mayonnaise buns. Yes, seriously delicious. I really should have got more!

Japanese bakeries are prolifically inventive with their baked creations. I have no idea how they keep churning out all these ideas and keep offering new, tasty, and cheap things to tempt me everyday that I am there. 

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