| Thoughts | More of the Same

The end of the year is a time for reflection and blogging has not snuck past without some thorough thinking.

The blogging landscape is one that shifts in a perpetual state of flux. More and more bloggers jump on the bandwagon and more and more grow silent and leave blogging behind. Some bloggers want attention and others seek respect. Thinking about it now, we've never minded about getting either of these things. 

We've always just blogged from a purely selfish perspective. 
We collect stories and leave them here in no particular order for other curious souls to find. 
In many ways we are like a broken little secret garden, a place people stop for a little while and wonder. Some will scratch their heads at our eclectic collection of blossoms and leave never to return. 
Others stay a while and even leave us little messages that in time grow into precious and rare friendships.

This coming year like all other years before, we will walk our own path wanting nothing but to continue to blog from the heart about the things that interest us at the time. We don't pander to PR companies or brands and the few that we do work with are just as comfortable and passionate about what they do as we are so there is no bullshit involved. We won't watch our followers lists, and we will remain disconnected from blog stats. We have long accepted that we are not the kind of blog to have legions of followers and we take comfort in the fact that 'followers' are not the kind of people that we are ever on a level with. But we are ever grateful for those that stick with us. These folks are usually the big of heart, curious of mind and vibrant of soul. The questioners, the wonderers,  unafraid of being themselves no matter what the world says........Thank you for supporting us in 2015 and see you next year for more of the same. 

Till then, we wish you a year of beautiful moments. May 2016 be a great year for us all!

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| Life | Wind Down

Christmas has come and gone in whirlwind fashion for us. So much anticipation (being our boy's first and all that), and then it is over so quickly, I can still taste our traditional Christmas day BBQ!

As we begin to wind down, my thoughts gather around me. I like the relative quiet that Christmas brings to the streets of London. Laughter and warmth effervesces like glowing bubbles from light filled homes. Yet in the midst of all our joy, a touch of melancholy punctuates merry making as our hearts catch sight of an empty chair at the dining table or a whisper of a voice that used to sing along with our own. We keep the memories of those we miss with us and they have a way of rising to the surface at this time of year.

This year we revelled in the contagious smiles of our newest family member as he marvelled at so many new sights, sounds and smells and positively glowed in all the attention. 

To mark the occasion, we asked our guests to bring one christmas ornament for our tree. Everyone did us proud and bought something that touched their hearts in someway. Hiro's brother made his contribution and that was really impressive to me.

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| Home | December Tales

We are always ready to stop and play with shadows in our home. Some shadows come to play with us. Sometimes we have to make our own, like with this charming ornament from Danish design stable Georg Jensen.

"Like stardust sprinkled from the northern lights of a December sky, fairytales come to life when the days grow short and that magical time of the year draws near". 

As a beam of light collides with the pirouetting decoration,  the magic is unveiled and silhouettes awaken and begin to cavort across our walls and ceiling in an endless performance of light and shadow.

There are other renditions of December Tales HERE. Ones like ours are for sale for about £10 each (less in the sales). Not cheap, but when I think of all the enjoyment we have got just from watching this over the past few days as well as knowing that we will keep it for years to come,  I think it is worth every penny. 

Part of the December Tales, this ornament was dreamed into reality in 2013 by the Danish design studio All The Way To Paris for Georg Jensen
Size: 140mm x 140mm
Made of: Stainless steel
Design in: Denmark
Made in: PRC
UK retailers: Skandium

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| Table Top | 9

Sunday was a day of lists. The days leading up to christmas are demanding and there is a plethora of things to do. I cannot keep up with it all and need help from a pen, notebook and a few morsels of chocolate.

Limited Edition 'Snowblind" notebook by Field Notes + 4 colour ballpoint pen by Hightide + Matcha chocolate from Rozsavolgyi Csokolade

I wish I could remember what these flowers are called. I did ask the lady at the florist and she said something that sounded an awful lot like 'ridiculous'. It was busy so I didn't ask her to rewind and come again.

As for the chocolate, have you ever seen such a beautiful bar? Rozsavolgyi are a husband and wife team based in Budapest and they make outstanding chocolate of highest quality in taste and desirable to the eyes. Moulded in resemblance of traditional Hungarian fireplace tiles, each bar is singularly hand wrapped and beautifully presented. The Matcha bar is a delight to look at while I devour it pretty piece by pretty piece. 

+ You can get the Snowblind Field Notes notebooks HERE
The Hightide pen is from a Japanese company but actually made in Italy. I got mine from HERE
The chocolate can be found HERE

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| Photo Diary | Toy Overload

If you find yourself in Tokyo looking for toys, go to Kuramae. If you are looking for some rare long forgotten character that no one else has heard of and you are starting to believe that you may have dreamed it into a half existence.......GO TO KURAMAE. Here you will find wholesaler after wholesaler laden no, bursting with all manner of toys and playful paraphernalia at bargain prices.  Traditional toys, ball joint toys, paper toys, masks, fireworks and kites, they are all here.

Here is also the place where anime characters (however rare) live in plastic reality on dusty shelves here just waiting for their doting geeky owner to discover them. 

Kuramae is one of those places where I don't see many confused looking tourists milling about yet. Its streets date back to the Edo period when it housed the rice granaries for the Shogun hence its name 'kura' meaning granary and 'mae' meaning in front. It is one of those areas that fell behind when the rest of the city was racing forward at breakneck speed and so it has that dowdy look that puts the average person off really exploring the area. Kuramae feels like it's trapped in a time loop. You can still spot people hand assembling cardboard boxes to sell on and small workshops engaging in traditional crafts. These wholesale toy shops, full of fun things feel disparately forlorn and discouragingly empty of customers. Yet to us, there is a vibe in the air that whispers of resurgence. An energy that is edging its way to the surface and it seems to be attracting young entrepreneurs who are choosing to set up noteworthy businesses here such as KONCENT and of course KAKIMORI (my current favourite stationery shop in the world). 

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| Kid Stuff | Baby in Black

How dumb was I being when I proclaimed that I won't blog kiddy stuff!?  I suppose back then I (naively) had no idea how the little dude was going to completely hijack my life. Now, it feels plain weird if he didn't have his two pennies worth on here too. 

Today I want to talk about BLACK being a super colour for babies despite people telling me that it is morbid. 

T-shirt from Nippaz With Attitude + Cloud Blanket from Farg Form + Flash Cards from Wee Gallery 

I wear a lot of black. Hiro wears even more. So our baby will wear some too. Black baby clothes are practical and whoever it was that thought white was better and made everyone make white vests for baby that we all buy by default wants a good talking too. Seriously, my washing machine and I don't like you very much!

My love of black for baby has gone further than his little wardrobe. When a friend gifted us with these B+W art cards, we noticed quite quickly that the high contrast images really caught his flighty attention span promoting moments of real fascination. Since then things in black and white are a natural and sensible choice with us for him coz....MAMA AIN'T RAISIN' NO FOOL! 

+ We bought the cloud blanket from THIS SHOP and it sits very well under THIS MOBILE that we currently have above his cot.

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| What I Wore | Wide Leg

No matter what fashion has dictated over the years, I have always had at least one pair of wide legged trousers in my wardrobe. The 'laid back but a bit smart' look they express so succinctly is a useful trick to have at the ready.

Rolled sleeve T-Shirt from ASOS. Wide legged trousers from OASIS. Slip ons from OFFICE.

I dug these trousers out again after our baby was born (He was about 3 months old by the time these photos were taken). They are comfortable, easy to wear and make me feel as though I look as though I've put in some effort into my appearance. A pursuit a barely have time for these days. I'm adopting a rather wayward 'bad hair don't care' attitude for now. 

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| Home | Surrealejos

This heart took my heart in an instant. 

It is made by SURREALEJOS who work/wake/dream/create from Lisbon taking their new brand of traditional Portuguese tile art beyond the realms of rationality. 

I love the concept and am so honoured to have this gorgeous piece entitled Meu Armor adorning an unexpected corner of our home.

If our tile appeals to you then I beseech  you to take a gander at Surrealejos' work and shop.  You can also buy one from the fabulous A Portuguese Love Affair in Columbia Road Market. You don't even have to face the Sunday crowds as they are open during the week (unusual for this street). If you prefer to buy online you can do that too.

LINKS: Surrealejos' Website A Portuguese Love Affair Website 

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| Well Made | Chopsticks

These are our new everyday chopsticks.

Hiro's grandmother bought these for us and we promised her that we would use them everyday. Yet had we not made this pledge, 'everyday' is is not a word that I would place anywhere near these chopsticks.

These chopsticks are a celebration of handmade craftwork. Hand carved of wood to exacting proportions and balance. Hand varnished with delicate layers of notoriously  hard to work with lacquer. As simple as they appear, more than 50 individual processes have gone into making these. 

Lacquerware comes straight from the soul of Japanese traditional craft. There are many regional expressions of lacquer work and these are an example of baka-nuri which translates as 'stupid lacquer'. 'Stupid' because many layers of lacquer are applied then sanded down before the next application. The initial thought is that it is stupid to do this. The result is a formidably tough and durable lacquer.

Furthermore, Japanese lacquer is not something that just anyone can work with. Although it is a natural substance derived from the sap of the Toxicidendron Vernicifluum tree, in its liquid form, the sap is caustic and toxic to humans. It takes years of experience to be able to build up a tolerance to the substance as well as being able to apply it skilfully  It does eventually harden to a clear, safe and waterproof protective finish. 

Using something this special everyday to eat our often humble meals is uplifting and gratifying. We think of Hiro's grandparents each time we place them on our table and we just cannot help but marvel at the quality, the fine workmanship and the refined beauty of the chopsticks. 

I have a terrible habit of thinking that some things are 'too good to use' and so I often secret things away where sometimes they are forgotten and go unused. Had we not promised to use these daily, they may have suffered a similar fate and been tucked away safely for special meals that may not have happened. What a great shame it would be to hide them away unseen and unused as they were intentionally made to be. 

* Hiro's grandmother bought these from Ginza Natsuno. Ginza Natsuno stock more than 3000 types of chopsticks all of which are handmade by craftsmen from different regions of Japan. She asked the sales assistant of the most resilient pair that they had and they recommended these chopsticks from Aomori in North Japan. 

We ❤️ well made things. See more HERE

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| Streets | Numbers

My mind, like the mind of many other's likes to do some wondering/wandering of its own. While my eyes stretch away from the pavement that I pound over everyday on my everyday rounds, they surreptitiously search for things that I had not really noticed before, and so my mind soaks up a new infatuation. Most recently numerical street fonts have been a pleasing sight. 

I know that the details from our streets that I harp on about on this blog may not be particularly interesting to many, but this blog has always been about appreciating the all too familiar and mundane little things in our lives. It is often these little overlooked things that quietly enrich the landscape of our everyday life making them much more vast in detail.  

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| LIFE + STATIONERY | Keep Calm and Keep Colouring

There are many things that I am rubbish at in life. But from my long list of #fails there is one thing that I am beyond being merely bad at. I am so appallingly awful at it that I despair at myself.

No matter what I do or how hard I try, I just cannot relax. I don't know what's wrong with me. I am one of those accursed souls that has to constantly find something to busy my hands with in order to quieten my mind. If I am reading a book, I must take notes as I do (which then leads to further research and often the need to dig out past notes etc). Watching telly offers little respite and I have to have something for my hands to do while I am sat down. I, can turn any relaxing pursuit into a task/mission/opportunity to do something.

I've been told that I have a restless soul and a sleepless mind. All I am certain of is that I find it hard to disconnect and just enjoy a restful mentality. My latest attempt to alleviate this affliction has come straight outta Compton Nairobi. I mean my childhood in Nairobi where on rainy days my mum ushered me off into a corner with colouring books and pencils, her way of trying to prevent me wreaking mischief in the house.

My colouring books are made by Clairefontaine who famously know a thing or two about paper as they have been making it since 1858. I admit that substance outvoted style in my decision to get these and I've been rewarded with 36 patterns per book with a good mix of intricate and complicated and bold and straightforward. The paper quality is spot on and it handles both felt pens and colour pencils with ease. 

I use a few different types of pens and pencils for colouring in. Regular favourites are my Irojiten pencils made by Japanese pencil making giants par excellence Tombow. Beautifully presented in sleeved sets each containing 3 book-like volumes the visual appeal of these pencils is sublime. In terms of performance, they provide a more subdued colour than high-end players like the Prismacolor etc. This bothers some but it works for me. Irojiten colours are layerable, blendable and playful. Irojiten loosely translates as 'colour encyclopedia' in Japanese and like many things Japanese, they are inspired by the nuances of nature.

I bought my sets of pencils in Japan for about £12.50 per set of 3 volumes (41p per pencil) and am astonished to see the prices demanded for them here in the UK. In my opinion this shocking mark-up prompts unfair comparisons with the high-end colour pencils which ultimately leads to disapointment. Tombow's Irojiten are designed in Japan, made in Vietnam. They are reasonably priced, mid-ranged pencils that makes them excellent value in Japan where they are sensibly priced. 

I digress! Back to my colouring in! Having a 6 month old means that I don't get much time to set aside. In reality I manage about 20 minutes every few days. However, within those spare minutes where I quieten and spread colours across bare patterns, I surrender into a sort mindful repose.

Useful Links | Info on Tombow Irojiten with a list of colours  

Love Stationery? Got more posts and pictures for you HERE

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| Life | Clouds on our Ceiling

Apologies for the state of limbo. We are back in London and currently battling with jet lag three ways. We've collected a treasury of stories to tell you and made marvellous memories to tuck away into the fold of our hearts. 

Blogging will be resuming soon! Until then however, let's just spend the wrong hours wide awake and staring at the strange cloud-like formations that our solar powered jars hurl at our ceiling.

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