The Season To Be A Porker

Apart from our feathers being slightly ruffled on Christmas Eve by my evil brother-in-law, our end-of-year holiday has been calm, happy and full. We watch films, drink endless cups of tea during the day with mince pies, biscuits and cakes, read books or do nothing while Mr.B snuggling up to us and end our evening with a glass of port with cheese.

The weather in London during the Christmas period has been icy, and therefore, we have been staying inside the flat, and as the result, we are eating a lot.
This is one of our favourite snacks, crumbly & creamy Wensleydale with cranberries stuffed in dates…

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Oven roasted vegetables to accompany lamb on Christmas Day. I loved the colours…

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Devoured two boxes of mince pies in one & half day. Mr.B’s disapproving expression said it all…

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Stuffed my face with the mince pie while reading the newspaper Hubbie bought at a nearby corner shop…

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Apparently, this kingfisher was nicknamed as Kevin by local residents. But why Kevin? Why not John or Mark or Paul? By the way, there is an aftershave named Kevin in Turkey. So Kevin sounds handsome or attractive?

Mr.B always loves to spread himself over the page I am reading. You, little devil…

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He says it is insane to subject oneself to a torture such as plunging into the icy cold Serpentine in Hyde Park on Christmas Day. Well, I can’t agree with you more…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Nostalgia To Opportunity…

One of the few joys I find during the Christmas period is to be able to watch classic children films, such as Walt Disney’s Pinocchio or Cinderella, first thing in the morning. Obviously, I am not a BBC’s intended pre-school viewer, yet, the programme lets me relive the delight of my early childhood in the hue of Instagram filters and I love the Christmas TV listings because of it.

Another object which inspires a pang of nostalgia is Britain’s iconic red phone boxes. Sadly, they are one of those endangered spices in the modern British street-scape which are fast disappearing due to the encroaching tide of modern technology such as mobile phones, WiFi and competing rival phone companies.
As universally recognisable red boxes with glass panes, which remind me of a musical box or a bird cage, recede from our view, the spots vacated are left empty, or worse, replaced by ugly nondescript industrial looking boxes in a shade of black or grey.
Even though I am one of those who have embraced a new life style offered by modern technology such as iPhone, and as the result, have directly contributed to the demise of the telephone kiosk, I am saddened by the disappearance of the red boxes which used to be dotted around London.

Then, I came across a delightful article in a copy of the Evening Standard the other day…

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Some of the disused phone kiosks are to have a second lease of life by being converted to coffee stands, sweet shops and shoe shines! The Red Kiosk Company, who are behind this fantastic project, hope to work with charities for the unemployed for generating job opportunities as well as adding new “crowd magnets” on our streets.
There are more than 12 planning applications already approved by local authorities. Which means it will not be long before the beloved red kiosks reappear on our pavements to be a part of our daily life again. Yippee!!

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Christmas Blues…

Christmas is supposed to be the time to be merry. However, I always greet it with some trepidation. There are a few Christmas related obligations to be fulfilled and most of them are not so burdensome. However, the one which involves my Hubbie’s brother, it makes me grimace. It always start from an annual phone call from him, enquiring about our plan for the coming Christmas. And a hint of collywobbles inside me grows as the day approaches.
Why this predicament? His wife has a bad back and can not do a long travel and my widowed father-in-law who resides in Yorkshire wants to have a family Christmas. So they thought why didn’t we all gather at Hubbie’s brother’s abode.
If only his brother’s behaviour towards Hubbie were more pleasant and mature, I wouldn’t have minded about the visit this much. We always gave the benefit of doubt as if he might have mellowed and his manner may be improved. Yet, we always agreed he had never changed, ‘A leopard can’t change its spots, can he?’

The traffic was surprisingly busy in spite of the Christmas holiday…

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And hurtling towards our destination with a heavy heart…

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Furry member of the brother’s household…

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They were only happy to have extra guests to make a fuss over them.

This year, we decided to drop in just for tea and mince pie in order to reduce our misery. Don’t get me wrong that we are fond of his wife and our sweet niece. I also get on very well with my father-in-law. We are always happy to exchange pleasantries and up-date about each other’s life. However, his brother, who more and more starts to resemble a dried prune due to excessive drinking, is totally not any sane person’s cup of tea.
As we sat around the fire and were hard at work trying to perform our annual family togetherness exercise, the brother planted himself in an old sofa, throwing his snide here and there. And poor Hubbie was a likely target of his unkind remarks. Hubbie can’t figure out why his brother behaves so badly towards him as long as he remembers. A possible explanation is that this is a classic case of sibling rivalry. The brother is one year older than Hubbie and has been less successful academically and career-wise.
On our way home, Hubbie sighed and muttered, ‘He never liked me’. ‘At least, our presence made your dad happy’, I comforted him.
Are we going to perform another unhappy pantomime the next Christmas? At the moment, our answer is a definite no-no. But our heart may wane as we consider his dad’s feeling. Oh dear, why the life is so complicated…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Best Mince Pie Award (by me)

As Christmas-related paraphernalia starts to invade every corner of our sights, especially November onward, so are mince pies which proliferate on the shelves of every bakery and coffee shop like a bunch of mushrooms in the autumn forests.
I gorge on them every winter not because I am very fond of them but because they are seasonal and the only time they are available is…NOW!

Firstly, I tried the one by Duchy of Cornwall, a brand created by Prince Charles. They were available in upmarket supermarkets and sold at £4.00 for a box of six. While their counterparts were priced at between £1.00 to £2.50, the Duchy’s pastry was significantly more expensive. Was their price tag justified? I am afraid not. The amount of the filling was much less than I expected and also it was consisted of too much sultana. The pastry casing was ok but also nothing remarkable. I don’t think I will buy them in future.
Another posh one I tried was from Fortnum & Mason. I tried it when I visited Somerset House with Hubbie. At their tea room within the Christmas Market, a pair of mince pies were offered with brandy butter. So I tried them with a mug of mulled cider. My verdict? Mmmm…, the shortbread crust was too thick and the filling was, how should I put it…, “gluey”. I really don’t think it will be worth parting with my precious £12.95 for six of this.
Then, I came across my winner by chance the other day.
I was sauntering around Shoreditch and decided to have a latte break at SCP on Curtain Road. There was a mince pie by St.John on display and I was intrigued by its rather rustic appearance. The top of the pastry was shiny and plump. I had had enough of the false pretence produced by de luxe brands by then. So I resolved to give another try to this artisan mince pie before going back to buying more down-to-earth cakes…

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I had my first mouthful and I loved it! The filling was fresh and crunchy in a good way. I could feel the texture of the filling – apple, sultanas, currants, lemon, orange, almond mixed exquisitely with cinnamon and nutmeg. The pastry casing was robust enough to hold the generous filling without being too hard nor heavy. It was probably one of the best mince pies I had ever tasted!
If you happen to be around Shoreditch, Clerkenwell or Bermonsey this winter, pay a visit to St.John’s bakery and try their pastry. And let me know what you think…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

A Twinkle On Pitfield Street

Last Sunday, I had cups of latte, a pecan tart and shared lots of catching-ups & giggle with my friend at Pitfield London.
While West End was choking with last-minute shoppers, Pitfield Street was awash with tranquility.

The street was cloaked in winter darkness and Christmas lightings in the cafe’s window looked ever so inviting…

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Whatever the shape, colour or design, Christmas lights warm my heart every time I behold them…

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Merry, merry, everyone!

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

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