27.2.15

| Life Stories | Moving Home


Things will be a bit slow and quiet here for a week while we move home.

Moving can be tumultuous at best but for me it is more emotional than anything else.

The place that we leave behind has been home for about 10 years. I remember when we moved in. The entire area was quite different and  actually, so were we. 


























Today, when I stand at the end of our road and look around, everything that I see before me wasn't there when we moved here (except the Sainsbury's sign). So many new developments took over and as I type, 4 more are sprouting up around us. 

For us, those 10 years have made us older but stronger and closer too. In many ways this is where we learned to respect each other and yes love each other more. We started our married life together here. Laughed, cried, messed-up, fallen down had many adventures and collected memories here. Gosh! I sound horribly sentimental don't I? Especially for someone who has moved more times in life than I have fingers.

Change is inevitable and I am sure that come tomorrow (our big move day), I will be ready for whatever is to come our way - even if it is paddling through boxes and bubble wrap for the next few days.

10 years worth of stuff is not fun to move. But a new adventure await and this one will change our loves forever.  I have so much to tell you but it shall have to wait for now.

Be back soon!


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25.2.15

| Photo Diary | The Best Worst Tour


I was shocked to discover that approximately a fifth (perhaps more now) of Porto's buildings are abandoned. 

At face value and with my little knowledge,  the neglect appears to be indiscriminate and we saw mansions, old and modern buildings either left abandoned or pretty much disused.

Naturally, this fascinated us. So much so that we withdrew from visiting the frequented tourist spots of Porto in favour of learning about some of the realities of the city today with the guidance of Pedro from Worst Tours. Pedro describes himself as;

"Alfacinha (born in Lisbon, in 75) who fell in love with Porto and never got to leave. Bald. Unorganized and absent minded. Unable to memorize names. Gets lost on purpose anytime he can, through shortcuts and narrow passages, and loves the city center. Expert on the town history. Activist. Jaywalker. "

We walked. We listened, asked questions and learned. We walked some more. 5 hours of walking.



























There are many reasons for why and how Porto has reached this state. Complicated reasons that as an outsider looking in, is difficult to elucidate on with real grounding. Migration to Brazil in search of new opportunities, a fading economy are just a few of the reasons we have heard. Also, local authorities played their part by seeking profits over people. A tale we see played out over and over again the globe over. 

Porto's residents have moved further and further away from the centre leaving swathes of emptiness to crumble in their wake. 

Yet, the evolving tale of Porto is not a hopeless one. Porto has one formidable card up its well-worn sleeve and that is its people. Strong-willed, resilient and admirably resourceful they are making the most and more of their neglected spaces. 































The rather stunning Art Deco Coliseu do Porto was once a theatre before it's fate came into debate in 1990's and sadly it was ravaged by fire in 1996. Today it houses artists studios and serves as a cultural venue and creative space.






Hidden behind humble doors and beyond the remnants of houses, secret gardens are cultivated by dedicated citizens of Porto. 

Porto may be a lot of things to a lot of people that have visited the city. To us though, it is a place at the junction of so many exciting possibilities. A place with steadfast people who don't give up even when it may look hopeless. People who don't shout about their achievements but keep going, working hard to make something out of what they can. Quietly, diligently, unwaveringly.

We like that.

SEE MORE | See more of our adventures in Portugal HERE See More of Our Adventures in Abandoned Places HERE 


NOTE:

London should take note of this shift. As fewer and fewer Londoners can continue to afford the rising rents and home prices we too are having to move outwards. Unlike Porto however, London is a massive super-magnet for foreign investors and they swoop in and buy the overpriced homes. The prices stay high and sadder still the homes they buy are left uninhabited. So ultimately we too have a ghost town waiting to happen in the wings. It may well be smarter, shinier and less obvious....but a ghost town it could be nonetheless.

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24.2.15

| Home | Noda Horo


I know that it is 'just a butter dish', but it's such a beautiful thing to me and here is why;

We bought this dish in Tokyo a few years ago from the Commes de Garcon affiliated Good Design Shop. It caught my eye because of the unusual composition of wood and enamel. 

The dish is made by Noda Horo a Japanese family company that have been expertly producing porcelain enamelware for over 70 years. As is often the case, modesty can be deceptive and the simplicity of this dish hides a well established foundation of precision and exacting standards that have made Noda Horo goods standard features in Japanese homes and professional kitchens.

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My little butter dish is not a proper butter dish because it holds sweets for guests and Hiro! The body is handmade enamelware and the lid is made from sakura tree wood (Japanese cherry blossom). I picked this particular dish because of the wood grain pattern - it looked unique to me. Today the sweets are potent Ginger Mints from Trinidad & Tobago.

Now that I have this dish - I would love to have some items from Noda Horo's White Series for cooking and baking. Unlike a lot of enamelware that I see around today, this collection avoids chunky-clunkiness and retains a sort of refined look and feel. They also come with handy plastic lids so I can do away with clingfilm and just cook and store and leftovers! My brother-in-law's girlfriend squeals when I talk about the White Series. She is quite a fan because there are cookbooks in Japan with recipes precisely considered to fit in each of the White Series' various dishes. So hilariously Japanese!

Porcelain enamelware is made by coating metal with a mixture of molten powdered glass.  Enamelware is fabulously versatile and can go from stovetop to fridge just as easily. Furthermore it does not produce environmental toxins, and prevents smells escaping or entering the vessel thus keeping food fresh and germ free, perfect for storage. 

When last I looked - some of the White Series was available in Dover Street Market, London. I am currently banned from buying kitchenware till we move and settle into our new home. More on that another time.




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23.2.15

| Places to Stay | Peaceful Quiet


We had never slept in a former monastery till we spent the night at Casa San Raffaele in Vicenza. 

Tucked away off a steep arcade, half way up Monte Berico Casa San Raffaele offers peaceful sanctuary and lovely views. 



























As one might expect from a former monastery, the rooms are large, simple and quite spartan with religious reminders here and there. There are no TVs which doesn't bother us - there are places to explore away from a screen! The quiet that envelopes the hotel creates a gentle lull (though the wine and honey grappa we enjoyed elsewhere certainly helped) and we found sleep very easy here. The rooms and public areas were all scrupulously clean and though services may be limited for a more demanding visitor it actually has everything that the more independent traveller would need. 

Our friends booked us into this albergo and it ended up being a perfect place for us. I only wish that we had more time to explore the impeccable grounds. But guess what? Now we have managed to stay in a former monastery and had breakfast in a deconsecrated church too: SEE HERE.

It cost us €68 per room per night to stay here.


WE ❤️ ITALY | See more of our adventures in Italy HERE |



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22.2.15

| Everyday People | Pongwe Businessman


We made a new friend in Zanzibar. He has a little shop of sorts on Pongwe beach. When I say 'shop', it really consists of a red masai shuka (blanket) stretched out over some rocks and on it, there was a few bracelets and a couple of cravings.

"Shikamoo!"

"Marahaba. Come and look at my shop!".

" I think this is a bad place for your shop, it is too quiet. There is nobody here."

" Yah, it is a very quiet beach."

" Maybe you can go to a busy beach like Dongwe. There are a lot of Italian tourists there. They have a lot of music and they like to party. Maybe that is a better place for a duka".

" Yah, but the noise is just boom boom boom".





Pongwe is one of our favourite beaches Zanzibar. It unpretentiously languishes in quietness, local vibes and eco/community conscious small resorts.

When the tide goes out,  it really goes out! The waters are dragged out to beyond the coral reef, leaving reams of seaweed behind. If you walk into the shallow waters, you can see an abundance of tiny little creatures waiting for the return of the tide.

If you are curious about where we stayed in Pongwe, you can find our blog about it HERE

WE ❤️ ZANZIBAR  | See More of Our Adventures in Zanzibar HERE  Seasons Lodge Website |


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20.2.15

| Stationery | Laden Notebooks


Our blog was never intended to run with the seasons neither was it to be restrained by the chronological movement of time. It was always destined to follow its own organic path collecting and depositing stories as it grows.

I collect all our stories in Notebooks where they sit and wait until I lead them onto the blog. Some wait longer than others and some never leave these pages at all. Most, wait for the moments when I flick through the pages in search of a disremembered tale or a snippet of inspiration. 

Since around this time last year, I have managed to fill 5 notebooks with scribblings and scrawlings.



The Monokaki Novelists notebook is one of my favourites and features top of my next Japan shopping list. Made by Masuya of Asakusa in Tokyo who have been making notebooks since 1882. Currently in their 4th generation of family run owners, they continue to make this beautiful to write on notebooks, perfect for the handwriting of a manuscript. Don't believe me? Well it worked for Kawabata Yasunari, Mishima Yukio and Oe Kenzaburo.  Thread-stitched and bound in small segments, the Echizen washi pages work wonderfully with all inks I have tried on them. The cover is designed my Takagi Ryo. 


My other favourite of the bunch is the Midori MD Cotton Notebook that I wrote about previously HERE.


I am often asked what makes me choose a particular notebook and here is my answer;

- Paper. Poor quality paper makes me sad so I choose a notebook firstly for its ability to work with fountain pen ink, pencil, ball pens and even marker pens. Smooth pages that allow words to glide across them without bleeding into their reverse are my preference.

- Design. I will overlook the cutest of notebooks in preference of something well constructed and made with real writing and daily use in mind (rather than giftshop pastiche eye candy). 

- Binding. Ring bound notebooks are not for me. They are bulky and the binding gets in my way when I write. Though I own a few staple bound and even glued notebooks, I prefer thread-stitched versions because they allow the pages to open up and fall flat so I can write with ease.  

- Durability. Cheap (in quality not in cost) paper, cover and construction just don't last and as my notebooks sit on my bookshelves for years. I need them to last. They are precious to me!

- Provenance. This is not a deal breaker but knowing the history of the maker will always add a degree of charm to a notebook. I also like to know where the paper is made so I can feel good about using it.
























Because things will not last with out a bit of care and attention. I keep my current notebook and diary in one of these cases that I make myself. I also sell these at a very reasonable cost in my little shop.

Before I go, I thought I'd make a note of my little vase! It is actually one of Fornasetti's lavish candle jars (I mentioned it before HERE). We finally finished the candle and so I repurposed the vessel as a vase for now. The roses are dying and somehow - they seem to only become more beautiful. Exraordinary.


Love Stationery too? | See More of our Stationery Blog Posts HERE |




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19.2.15

| Food | The Quickest Way to Warm Up


Pounding the puddled pavements in London during winter is one of my least favourite things to do in life. It only falls further down the list when it starts to rain!

If we are still out at dinner time, I think the quickest way to warm up right through to the bones is to head to one of our favourite Korean restaurants for some seafood sundubu jjigae. 

Sundubu jjigae is a Korean stew (some say soup), made with silken tofu,vegetables and either seafood or meat in a spicy gochujang broth. It is cooked in the serving dish, an egg is added just before serving and it is served while still bubbling. Nothing warms me up quicker than this!


























My favourite  Sundubu jjigae in London is on the menu at Koba which I recommend to anyone wanting to try Korean food. Their seafood sundubu comes served in a stone bowl. It is complex and brings together the fiery heat from the spices, mildness of tofu and depth of piquancy in a clever balancing act that doesn't completely overpower the seafood flavours.

I cannot leave a Koba without a bit of BBQ and of course a piping hot stone bowl of bibimbap!

You can find Koba at 11 Rathbone Street, London W1T 1NA. 

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18.2.15

| Photo Diary | I Saw A Dragon


I am known for my efficacious imagination among those close to me. I churn everyday things into improbable imaginings at the best of times and this is how I came to see a dragon. 

A great swift loping water dragon that brought a downpour of rain in its trail. It took over the sunlit skies in a nimble moment and hovered whilst I stared for a while before packing up and heading back to the refuge of our little apartment. 

































The dragon came and went and while it turned and tumbled in the sky, shaking off all the water it had carried with it, we enjoyed a cold beer while my bikinis dried in the breeze. 

I am not crazy though! It really does look like a dragon doesn't it? I did! I diiiiiiiid see a dragon (now I sound like Tweety Pie).


SEE MORE | More of our adventures in Greece here | 


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16.2.15

| Photo Diary | Childish Things


“When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.” C.S. Lewis

Trust me to create a wish-list in a place which I unconditionally cannot procure a single item on that said list! Yet this is exactly what proceeded to occur after our impromptu visit to the Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green.

Though it is in the East-end  the museum is part makes up part of the V&A and is a sprawling cornucopia of distractions including all manner of toys, dolls, puppets, model trains and more. It is a place that will either tickle your nostalgia or have you creating exorbitant wish lists of your own. Probably both!

































My impossible wish-list looks a bit like this:

1. Man eating lion mechanical wooden toy. Preferably complete with half devoured man - blood not necessary.

2. Enormous dollhouse that is in fact not a dollhouse but a clever storage system for all my trinkets - royal connections would be nice but not essential.

3. A sand powered automaton from latter part of the 1800's - in perfect working order.

4. A masked marionette. Puppet theatre to house the marionette can arrive once I have won the Lotto.

5. A hand painted diorama or 20. Again, perfect condition please?




P.S. I found this clip on Youtube that explains the magic of sand toys. I'd wager that quite a few of you may be keeping your eyes peeled and fingers crossed in hope of finding one too now!

USEFUL LINKS | V&A Museum of Childhood |


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15.2.15

| Sewing | Boro Behaviour


The concept of 'Boro' style is something that we have mentioned a few times last year when we spoke about one of our favourite Japanese brands Kapital Denim (see HERE) and when we spoke of sashiko mending techniques (see HERE).

Lately 'Boro style' seems to have piqued the interest of global Japanese menswear aficionados with the likes of VISVIM and Watanabe Junya exploring their roots.

When Japanese talk about 'Boro' things. They often refer to things that have been used so they are falling apart and worn out. You can find a boro house (like the one in Totoro), a boro record player etc. Boro in terms of fabric items dates back to around the 17th century when the poorer citizens would stitch together rags of cloth to make blankets and use patches and clever stitching to mend, strengthen and cushion clothing. It is a craft developed out of a necessity for warmth, practicality and longevity and so it was mainly used by firemen, fishermen and farmers.

Whilst I appreciate the sentiments, I confess that specifically made 'new' Boro-style garments made for the sale to the masses looses a certain amount of appeal to me. They stray too far away from the essence of the style and so the charm diminishes. New specially dyed and sourced cloth is used rather than rags and scraps and the result is something a little contrived in my mind (like purposely ripped jeans). The necessity to mend and prolong the life of a garment is not part of the creation of a brand new high-end garment. So to me, the 'Boro-ness' is no longer there.

Today, the art of mending things is often dismissed, and derided. The excesses of fast fashion and materialism makes us all believe that worn-out garments are better off discarded than investing time and effort to repair them. I have to agree to a degree. Cheap (in quality) items probably cannot be repaired properly. However, some garments have real value, not only in cost but sentiment and quality. So, armed with my inherent defiance of 'throwayism' and inspired by a boro attitude I attempted to bring life back to a pair of Hiro's jeans.





Hiro cycles to work and back every day. Gradually the associated monotony of movement degrades the the fibres of his jeans.  

I employed the most basic of sashiko stitches and did my utmost to not only mend the damage but to revive the threadbare frayed fibres by essentially creating a new patch of weft using special sashiko thread. I also tried to strengthen the vulnerable surrounding area with my rather paltry simple but effective stitches.

Even though my work cannot be easily spotted when he wear ths jeans (perhaps this is a good thing) Hiro is happy when he wears them. I am happy that my stitching seems to be enduring his daily commute!

I am working on improving my sashiko stitching skills in the years to come and will probably undertake more boro projects this year to help me along!

NOTE: The damage to Hiro's jeans has noticeably lessened when he replaced his bike seat with a leather saddle from BROOKS.


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