| Markets | Encants Vells

If you like junk then you will like this place. 

If you find yourself in Barcelona and like junk, then I highly recommend a trip to Encants Vells.

The story of Encants Vells starts in around the 14th century making it one of the oldest markets in Europe. I have been told that the name owes it's meaning to the time when the plague ran riot in Barcelona and the poor would resort to selling the property of the departed outside the city walls. 

Today, the market is alive with randomness. There are bargains to be had and haggling to be done for anything from furniture to clothes. I did make a few interesting purchases of my own but will surprise you with my finds at a later date!

There is talk of moving the market from it's current location near the Placa d'Espanya to some super futuristic something or other which would be a pity.

Encats Vells is open on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. 

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Setting the Scene

Recently, and all of a sudden, I have been getting lovely messages about the little tableaus that I create both for my shop product images and my Instagram feed. 

These comments have taken me by surprise as this photo habit is something that I developed in my own little bubble using whatever I have lying around to make my photos more interesting and appealing as well as give a sense of depth and perspective.

It is such a lovely heartwarming feeling to know that my little scenes are being well received so I thought I would scribble a brief note or two on how I achieve these looks. I am more of an enthusiastic amateur and no an expert but this is something I really enjoy doing.

\\ Let there be light

Good lighting is always important to me. So much so, that the levels of daylight that spill though our window dictate my schedule for the day. Nice light means I stops what I am doing and take photos. 

I tend to use the same nooks and crannies in our flat. I avoid using flash because I find, it flattens the details and textures of my pictures. 

\\ Camera action

I use 2 cameras for snapping the scenes. I use a Canon DSLR and my iPhone 4.

\\ Primps and Props

Details can make or break my tableaus. I take great care to quickly polish any shiny props to avoid fingerprints, dust marks etc. 

I actually have little boxes of props. They consist of little things that catch my eye and bring a story to the scene.

I rarely go out purposely to buy props. I try to use what I have and make use of things like, makeup, books, stationery, crockery, ornaments and even food.

\\ Background

The background is important to me. I like plain simple backgrounds just as much as decorative ones. 

I use scraps of wallpaper, wrapping paper, posters and fabric to achieve a look I like.

\\ Editing

I have to resize the photos taken with my DSLR and sometimes retouch the light if I find it too dreary.

Editing pics with the iPhone is a breeze and quite addictive. I like using Line Camera and Snapeee (mentioned HERE) to edit my photos before uploading to Instagram.

I aim to give my photos a feel of being in a quiet place with a warm glow of sunlight washing over the scene. It helps to have an idea of what it is I am trying to achieve before I edit. Although random messing about is fun and provides great results too!

\\ Get lost, have fun!

I really enjoy this part of my work it is like quiet story telling, secret keeping, magic creating all in one go. I can quite forget about everything else going on around me while I create a fragile seconds to photograph.

These tableaus are temporary and last but a few fleeting moments. The props and backgrounds are also temporary as "things" often are (they will be made into things, sold, lost, vanish given away etc). Such is life that all I will have is the photo to jog my memory and I very much enjoy sharing these pictures with you.

I hope that I have provided some helpful tips for everyone that asked me for advice. Please feel free to ask any questions.

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Out with the old and in with the new

I am decidedly and unapologetically flirtatious when it comes to facial cleansers. Yes, I  do have some firm favourites that I do repurchase when my imagination cannot see beyond them on the shelf, and so it is that more often than not, I like to see what's out there and try as much as I can.

Philosophy's Purity is a cleanser that I do repurchase. I bought a larger bottle of the stuff and it lasted so long that I was beginning to doubt that I would ever see it empty. Now that it has, I've moved onto something new and very different.

\\ Skinfood Lavender Tea Salt Mask Foam

Skinfood is a Korean brand that I am growing to like more and more with each product that I try and it is no wonder to me that the brand continue to grow in popularity. 

According Skinfood this is, "a foaming cleanser infused with lavender tea and Himalayan salt that helps moisturise the skin and wash away dirt and excess oil leaving the skin, soft and supple like a mask does".

To my nose, this smells quite uniquely of a fresh bouquet of lavender and citrus with a hint of tea in the background and nothing at all like your granny's abandoned 20 year old potpourri. The cleanser is thick and creamy with grains of salt throughout. The salt provides a welcome mild exfoliation and it quickly dissolves as the foam lathers. The cleanser rinses of cleanly and taking away daily dirt and grime off with it, leaving my skin feeling very soft and smooth and without any nasty residue. I am also particularly pleased that this doesn't irritate the small patch of eczema that I have on my cheek.

I find that the Lavender Tea Salt Mask Foam does not remove a full face of makeup very well so separate cleanser is needed on these occasions (I am still using THIS

I bought this in UK from a shop that is sadly no longer operating and can now only find these on eBay. There are three variations in this mask foam collection:

  • Lavender Tea Salt - Moisturising
  • Lemon Tea Salt - Renewing
  • Green Tea Salt - Refreshing

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Black Haori & Pale Lace

One cold and rainy day, I found myself stumbling down a hill in the Japanese countryside with all the elegance of a crippled goat. Despite my reservations, I ended up having an extraordinary adventure. I also wound up in the most amazing little second hand shop where I bought a couple of vintage haori for the handsome sum of about £10.00 (for the pair).

Haori are essentially loose kimono-like jackets that are worn over kimono and were originally only worn by men till ladies took on the fashion of wearing them during the Meiji period.

Deeming kimono highly impractical for London life, I wear mine in most untraditional ways and often in odd pairings. On this particular day, it met my lace dress and a fab looking old bus!

Haori are so comfortable and lovely to have in the more amiable seasons. I look forward to seeking out more of these on my return visit to Japan.

| Dress was bought from a boutique in Brighton, UK | Vintage haori from a junk shop in Nara, Japan | Studded loafers from Matalan  | Sockettes and tights from Tabio UK | Bird print scarf Vintage

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A King of Rulers

To those in the know, the very sight of a piece of Japanese lacquerware will send a little chill down the spine.

To those with an obsession for detail, this  combination of Japanese aluminium and urushi lacquered wood is a thing of curiosity and beauty.

So much effort, care and attention has gone into creating these 16cm.

The process of creating the lacquered wood inlaid in the impeccably brushed Japanese aluminium started over 15 years ago!

The wood itself has been matured for over 15 years and comes from the "hiba" tree from Aomori which is considered as one of the three most beautiful trees in Japan. Aomori hiba is a light wood  that possesses a handsome wood grain and unique aroma as well as anti-bacterial qualities and  a resistance to mould and moisture.

As for the lacquer, the urushi, well that goes straight into the soul of Japanese traditional craft.

Urushi is a natural substance that is derived from the sap of the poisonous Toxicidendron Vernicifluum tree. The sap is harvested from the trunks of trees no less than 10 years old and is in fact caustic and toxic to humans. In its liquid form, the sap can cause extreme rashes. Eventually it does harden to a clear, waterproof protective finish. It can also be coloured to traditional shades of black, yellow, brown, green or red. This ruler was lacquered with a bengara (rusty red) pigment.

Furthermore lacquer from Wajima is widely regarded to be the most excellent in Japan. The Wajima-Nuri lacquering method is designated as a cultural property of great importance and is held in high esteem in Japan. My family own Wajima-nuri chopsticks that have seen decades of use and are showing no signs of deteriorating yet.

It is a very rare thing for my husband to find himself coveting something of mine (he never takes a second look at my nail polishes). Yet he has had his eye on this ruler since it arrived. He is a detail conscious fellow with a deep respect and pride of the traditional crafts of his homeland. He is also quite taken with how the ruler starts has an exact considered 5mm gap at the start and the end of the gauge and the little groove that runs underneath the ruler as this allows the user to pick the ruler up without sliding it across (and marking) the table.

I think  JAPAN WORKS resonated their ethics of quality, heritage and time honoured traditions in this piece. 

I hope that you can now imagine my utter delight and excitement when the lovely people from the Journal Shop sent me one to review. I cannot thank the staff enough for this wonderful gift. I am proud to have it and often look at it and think of all the processes and history that made it so beautiful. It inspires me in my work, and it appeases my soul yet it is just a ruler. At the same time it is a little ode to old Japan and modern Japan. To the soul of Japan and the pragmatic minimalism of Japan. It is unassuming, quiet, it doesn't scream for attention among the clutter of my desk but instead beckons to me like an old friend. It is a very classy thing to have.

| The Journal Shop | Midori Japan Works

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“No pleasure endures unseasoned by variety”

I have little boxes for little knickknacks that I collect and I suppose that this blog post is much like these little boxes in that it is filled with a miscellaneous grouping of things.

\\ BB tea

I have some new BB creams to try out (reviews will come soon)! Both by Skinfood Korea and both part of their Good Afternoon tea inspired collection. Having finished off a tube of Honey Black Tea | Review can be found here | from the same collection, decided that I liked it plenty enough to try more variations.

I bought these from KoKo who sell Korean makeup and skincare and are based in UK. If you normally buy your Korean bits online via eBay or GMarket then you may well find their price hikes rather steep. However, if you would rather buy items from a trusted UK retailer and/or need something pronto then I suggest that you bookmark their page.

They currently have a FREE postage offer (UK only) too!

| KoKo Cosmetics Website |

I am a wrapper

When I was young, I loved wrapping things. I loved it so much and performed each task with such care and delight that my aunt would pay me to wrap her gifts at Christmas time. 

I seem to have rekindled my love for wrapping since opening my little online shop. Here is something that I did recently using MT Wrap, ribbons and random stickers. The sticker actually looks a little like the person that this is intended for.

\\ Go away rain cloud

Like many Brits I am sick of our ghastly weather and so decided to turn my rant against its dreariness into something pretty. 

I made these darling bows to be paraded in your ponytails, braids or buns. I handpicked fabrics from Liberty London, Cath Kidtson and others to really inspire a bit of cheer. So, while they are not guaranteed to bring out the sun, they will encourage happy thoughts and sunny smiles!

\\ In my own little world

I am a bit bonkers over Line Play and am placing the blame firmly on VanityFashionista's petite shoulders! 
Here I have created a little home for a mini version of me that seems to sneeze a lot, break out into cute dances and wears bunny ears. 

It is a silly but fun app to have and one that I find relaxing and amusing as it allows me to visit many random people as well as some of my favourite bloggers who I may have gently dragged down the rabbit hole with me.

Recently I have even popped in to see Ayumi Hamasaki. Her eyes are scary big and she is always ready to strike a pose.

If you too are on Line Play, or you fancy falling into an odd little kawaii world, come find me! I am "Fushigi".

\\ Dotty Origami

Origami is a much loved pastime of mine. Whilst in Japan I noticed some more contemporary patterned origami paper which I snapped up in a heartbeat.  I also managed to add more paper and a lovely booklet to my collection here in the UK thanks to the | Journal Shop |.

I think that is quite enough rambling on for today. It is Friday after all.

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うどんの日 - The Day of Udon

One mercilessly sodden Saturday, the rain chilled me to my very bones. 

Seeking respite, there was only one way for us to revive our frigid innards.......UDON!

\\ Udon 

Basically, udon is a thick and juicy wheat-flour Japanese noodle commonly served in a broth (but not always) and with toppings that will vary regionally. 

Udon can be served in the following ways:

Atsu-atsu - Hot noodle and hot broth

Hiya-astu - Cold noodle and hot broth

Hiya-hiya - Cold noodle and a side serving of cold dipping sauce.

Udon eateries and shops are called Udon-ya. London has such a place and it comes highly reccommended.

\\ Koya 

Koya can be found in the heart of Soho and you will spot it a mile away because there is usually a queue outside. Koya is  unpretentious and simply decorated and I like it because the focus all goes on providing noodles of such pureness of quality that it shows real respect for the traditions of udon.

Koya serves "Sanuki udon" which is renowned in Japan to be the most refined udon noodle.

I chose the atsu-atsu buta miso udon (hot noodle, hot broth miso pork). 

Hiro went for the atsu-atsu tempura udon.

Both were served with deliciously complimentary broths. My miso was slightly sweet with a good depth of flavour. The sanuki udon (which are handmade by the chefs) were thick, juicy and delightfully chewy.

We also ordered a small plate of butakakuni which in this case was slow-cooked braised pork belly in cider and it was very good indeed.

Koya is on the pricey side but I have learned that when eating out in London good Japanese food doesn't come cheap and I would happily pay the price for a good bowl of my favourite style of noodles rather than a half hearted bowl of ramen that seem to be very common these days.

I often wonder how comfortably/proudly/sincerely many of the so-called Japanese restaurants in London would serve their food in Japan as well as London. In all honesty think many places would blush and shy away from this challenge. However, I have come to believe that Koya could rise to this challenge and do so with their heads held high.

"The heart of Sanuki Udon lies in its simplicity. Light, but profoundly deep. Sanuki people often eat freshly cooked Udon noodle with only a drop of soy sauce. It is this simplicity, which demands intrigue and endless attention for these noodles." Koya, London.

Udon is Japanese soul food. It is a dish that warms my heart and fills my belly and makes me smile when I finish a bowl. So much hard work goes into making these unassuming chubby noodles that I cannot merely consume a bowl without giving thought to all the sweat, love and attention that goes into making them.

We ended our Day of Udon by watching a film that we chanced upon on the internet....

\\ Udon (the film)

"There's nothing here. Just udon."

Udon is set in 1990s Sanuki (at the very heart of udon) , a small noodle mad town in Kagawa Prefecture. Sanuki is home to 1 million residents and during the time the film was set, it was also home to 900 udon restaurants.

The film evolves around the prodigal son of a udon noodlemaker who having failed to set New York alight with his aspiring comedy act returns to his small town with a real dislike for udon. Many unexpected, hilarious and at times deeply touching things happen that change his mind about the noodle in his new life at home. The really beautiful part of the film for me involves insightful depiction of soulful process that goes into making udon. It really spoke to my heart.

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| Architecture | Perfect Lines

The chair is a very difficult object. Everyone who has ever tried to make one knows that. There are endless possibilities and many problems - the chair has to be light, it has to be strong, it has to be comfortable. It is almost easier to build a sky scraper than a chair. - Mies van der Rohe

My affection for chairs is hugely influenced by Hiro's keen obsession with them. One of the first chairs that took my fancy was the Barcelona Chair designed by Mies van der Rohe and Lily Reich in 1929. So when Hiro took me on a weekend trip to Barcelona, it went without saying that a visit to the German Pavilion would be a must. As it turns out, this is the 1st thing that we did.

The chair was purposely designed for the King of Spain to rest his royal rump upon in the German's entry for the International Exposition hosted by Barcelona in 1929.

To me this leather and chrome chair is a thing of beauty. The original Barcelona Chair was designed to me bolted together and the seats made of cream coloured pig skin. In 1950, this was redesigned using a seamless chromed stainless steel frame which is hand buffed to a mirror-like finish and 148 separate pieces of bovine leather to form the cushions. 

It is said that one of these chairs is an original 1929 version. I was to pleased to see them and was sorely tempted to flout the rules and rest my unroyal rump on one while the security guard nipped off somewhere.

The Pavilion itself is an architectural poem of clean lines that narrow and focus visitor's lines of vision to the framed views intended by Mies. The interior of the pavilion consists of a series of offset marble and glass partitions. Four types of Marble are used throughout the structure,giving it a smooth and infinitely tactile quality. 

I am a fan of the Bauhaus and feel so lucky that I have got to visit this iconic building and see one of my favourite chairs in it's near original form. 

Mies van der Rohe was the last director of the Bauhaus before the Nazi's finally forced the school's closure.

| Wikipedia info | Barcelona Pavilion |

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Ma Cherie

Those who know my fragrance fancies (woodsy, bergamot, curious) may be astonished to know that I have taken a liking to the scent of these flouncy floral and very girly Japanese hair products. 

Every girl, even boyish ones like I, like to feel a bit feminine when it suits us and these items provide that little bit of girliness for me. They smell fresh and floral with a fleeting herbal note and delicate fruity undertone resulting in very clean scent overall.

\\ Ma Cherie Hair Oil

I like this non-sticky and light hair oil. It works very well in smoothing my thick, coarse and frizzy hair. I use it on wet hair when my hair feels a bit dry and I use a touch on my dry hair for a sleeker and  glossier look. Ma Cherie Hair Oil penetrates into the hair to help repair any damage and protect against heat styling and UV damage.

The only issue I have with this product is the pump. It has a terrible habit of dispensing too much oil and so needs to be used with great care and caution as it is a very sensitive pump!

\\ Ma Cherie Gloss Milky Wax

I am in the process of growing my hair again (keeping my hair short very is expensive), and so it is starting to find it's curly groove again. I don't like straitening it everyday so I often leave it curly. Ma Cherie's Gloss Milky Wax is a kind water-based wax which I find great for holding a neat glossy frizz free curl without any sticky weighty residue.

Both these items are made by the Japanese cosmetics giant Shiseido. I do wish that Ma Cherie products were more widely available especially in UK as I would happily re-purchase these items. However, I have yet to find a UK stockist.

I bought both these items in Japan though have seen them in Alpabeauty's eBay shop if you fancy giving them a try.


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Ladurée and Uniqlo

On a recent whizz through Instagram, I spotted some lovely images of the collaboration between Ladurée and Uniqlo and of course I am wishing/hoping/waiting that this collection will reach UK's shores.

The collection consists of 6 T-shirts and a part of the profits will be donated to a charity helping children affected by the tsunami.

| More pictures of the Collection | Uniqlo
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Rolling Cake

I don't often bake as the husband dislikes sweet things which means that I would have to eat everything myself. Nice idea perhaps but regretfully no good for my waistline or cholesterol levels. However, my imagination has been captured by these "deco roll-cakes" that I have been seeing on Japanese sites over the past year or so......

Image from So-net.

Aren't they delightful!? 

Well, I thought I would give it a go and even though my 1st attempt is so far away from perfection that it is laughable, I am pleased with it. 

It tasted lovely, not too sweet and very light and fluffy!

I took inspiration from fallen sakura petals floating in water. I created the petals free-hand using the back of a teaspoon. The creases that accidentally appeared on my cake were the result of my failure to lay out my greaseproof paper properly before hurling the mixture in.
However, I think this adds to the water effect (sort of?).

There are many recipes online in Japanese and having read through a bunch of them (with Hiro's help), we combined a couple and hope to improve on them before posting a simplified recipe for anyone to use! 

Be back soon, hopefully with a prettier roll-cake!

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