Thanks, mum!

Bella received a mega cute Christmas card from Japan! Thanks to my darling mum, who went to an extra trouble to find the card, the gesture brightened my otherwise rather depressing day like a 1000w light bulb!

So why was I blue in the first place? Well, it was because the thieves tried to break into Hubbie’s office (again). Even though they were unsuccessful (again) and went empty-handed, they throw a heavy object at the floor-to-ceiling double glazing next to the front door and it shattered the outside pane completely – thankfully, the inner pane held up and denied access to the thieves. They may have done that out of the frustration but it was such an unnecessary vandal. I just felt sad and angry as I walked on the shattered glass pieces which resembled the glitters in a snow dome.

When I thanked mum about the card during one of our twice-weekly Skype sessions, she was very happy to learn that her card cheered me up. She also explained that she couldn’t resist buying the card because it reminded her about Bella very much.

Yup, their eyes and noses bear an uncanny resemblance…

Even though the dog isn’t a Yorkie like you, it definitely looks like you, my lady.

Bella wasn’t sure when I presented her the card…

If it is not a toy nor treat, what is IT?

I placed the card on the window sill with the rest of the Christmas cards and looked out of the window, observing how grim London looked under the featureless dove-grey sky.

Then at least, I have my mum, Hubbie and Bella, who love me and make me happy no matter how disappointing the rest of the world may be. I must be very grateful and this must be the Christmas spirit…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Bellanger @ Islington Green N1

My father-in-law, David, was a Germanophile, therefore, I recommended Bellanger on Islington Green when Hubbie asked where we should take him for lunch. The restaurant was specialised in the Alsatian cuisine and I thought he would enjoy French/German menu.

It must have been the effect of Storm Caroline, the green was a bit breezy…

Hubbie and I frequente this bistro because we like their food but also there is another definite plus point…

Because they are dog-friendly!

Bella earned a big brownie point by being well-behaved while we dined.

Hubbie and David shared Choucroute à l’Alsacienne…

The serving was huge and it even satisfied two very tall men – they were both over 6’4″!

I fancied duck, hence I ordered confit of duck…

I ordered a bowl of mashed potato as a side to go with the duck. However, the tray with the bowl upended by accident while the waiters were serving our plates, and the potato splattered across the floor. Oh dear.

For pudding, Hubbie and I shared blackberry & apple crumble…

We were very very full by the end of the lunch.

Christmas is fast approaching…

For Hubbie’s family, Christmas is a bit tricky time. Hubbie has a brother and they haven’t seen each other in the past two years. It was not that they had a bust-up or anything. But they have never been even close enough to have a quarrel in their life, and as a result, they have drifted apart and had no urge to rekindle a brotherly relationship.

David confessed to me while Hubbie was absent that he wished if they were closer. ‘I think they should meet up for a chat soon.’ I told him that I would pass the message to Hubbie.

And I did tell Hubbie what David confided to me later on. ‘But he never liked me and he doesn’t care.’, Hubbie sighed.

Unfortunately, that is the truth. His brother is a cold man. In the past, he threw cruel personal jokes to Hubbie’s face even I was in front of them – I stood up to him and told him that was not nice while Hubbie tried to make it like it was not a big deal. He made his first wife and their children very unhappy by being totally selfish. And his second wife isn’t treated any better. Why do we want to see someone like that even once a year, especially at Christmas? Even David, his own father, confesses that he is not very happy to spend time with him. Anyway, I have invited David to spend Boxing Day with us so we can have some fun together.

Peace-making must come from both ends if it is to last, I thought as Bella and I visited the park after lunch.

In December, the dusk comes too soon…

Ohhh, I’m so not into Christmas yet…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Xmas shopping in June

Apart from their immaculately restored mediaeval townscape, Rothenburg ob der Tauber is famous for Käthe Wohlfahrt’s Christmas Village. This all-year Christmas store has two shops on Harrngrasse, off Marktplaz.

‘I think I’m gonna find some gifts for my close friends at Käthe Wohlfahrt.’, mum told me as we had our German breakfast.

By the way, we loved German-style breakfast – a buffet style breakfast consisted of various breads, cheeses, cold meats, jams, cereals, juice, yoghurt, salad and fruits – very much! I also introduced mum to blue cheese during a breakfast buffet at Strasbourg as the cheese was packed with gut-friendly bacteria. At first, she was not very keen on “cheese with mould”. However, she grew to like it by the end of our road trip. Our favourite way of eating the cheese was to have it with a thinly sliced German-style rye bread. They were delish!

After breakfast, we checked out of our room at 9:30. I asked at the reception if we could continue to park our car in their car park while we were sightseeing because we couldn’t see much of the town the previous day due to our late arrival. The receptionist replied, ‘Of course! You can park all day if you want.’ How nice! We liked the town even more.

The sunshine was beating the streets already. I had got a feeling that it was going to be another sizzling day…

Rothenburg was full of gift shops!

Mum loved a linen shop which was laden with house accessories such as cushions, pillow cases, tea towels, handkerchieves, Christmas ornaments, etc. All of them were beautifully hand embroidered and some of them were heavenly scented with locally produced lavender. ‘How do I look?’ Mum picked up one of the hand embroidered t-shirts and asked my opinion. She didn’t expect the weather to be this hot, therefore, she needed a few new tops. The t-shirt was made with organic cotton and looked very flattering on her. ‘Yeah mum, it’s a definite buy!’ So she bought it.

Marktplaz was filling up with tourists…

There was a fountain which we overlooked the previous day…

Mum with a cute company car of Käthe Wohlfahrt which reminded me of a Harrod’s delivery van…

Mum with their all year around Christmas tree…

No photography was allowed beyond this point, therefore, I have no image of this Aladdin’s Cave for Christmas lovers. Describing it in one word, the store was HUGE. Every available space, such as walls and shelves and even some floors were utilised to display everything “Christmas”. Despite it was in the middle of June and nearly 28°C outside, being on the comfortably air-conditioned shop floor with never ending Christmas tune ringing in our ears, we felt like the festive season was just around the corner, not six months away!

Mum pondered for a long time what to buy for her friends. ‘No chocolate because they’re gonna melt. No tree ornament because they’re too fragile and bulky…’ Oh, she was in trouble. Then, we came to a department selling advent calendars. ‘How about them?’ I suggested mum to get those fun calendars for her friends. Since advent calendars were a part of the German Christmas traditions, they would be most appropriate and space-saving souvenirs! She agreed and we picked altogether 15 sheets, including one for herself.

When we left the shop, it was nearly eleven and the sun was high…

Before leaving the town, mum wanted to visit the shop we came across last evening…

There were many small wooden toys and ornaments in their show windows. ‘Shall we go in?’

We found a woman at the till / worktop busy assembling one of her Christmas table ornaments. She explained that all the items in her shop were made by her and her husband. Mum and I agreed that we wanted a souvenir for ourselves which was truly “Made in Germany” since Rothenburg used to be a town well-known for their craftmen and artisans. We chose a Christmas table ornament with a Santa Claus, a reindeer and a tree arranged on a small rectangular dais. ‘This will remind me about the fun we had together.’ Mum smiled.

Now, we must get back to the car and head to our next destination!

Eww, I’ve got a feeling that our car will be scorching hot by now. How am I gonna touch the steering wheel with my naked hands…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Busy busy Sunday 

It’s gonna be even busier towards Christmas, I sighed as I squeezed myself into a crowded tube carriage at Euston. Generally, I avoided Oxford Street and its vicinity in weekend like the plague. However, my routine had altered significantly ever since Bella joined our family. And having to travel to the area during the busiest (and probably most unpleasant) time had become one of those changes I had to contend with.

Just before noon at Regent Street…

Shoppers were already milling around in front of the stores and waiting for the doors to open. The largest crowd-puller seemed to be the recently re-opened Apple Store as they were to launch a new MacBook that afternoon. There were two prominent queues already established from both directions, north and south. Apple do know how to make money, don’t they?

The reason why I had to visit the extra busy west end on Sunday was because I had to have a monthly maintenance of hair and nail done at the salon off Regent Street. As Bella the Puppy couldn’t be left on her own for too long, I needed Hubbie to be at home and babysitting Bella, therefore, the trip had to be done during weekend.

Since the worry about Bella was out of the way, maybe I could run a few errands, that was what I was thinking as my fingers flicked through the pages of the magazine resting on my knee. I wanted to try on a new pair of jeans and a Nars lipstick at Liberty. No matter how sophisticated and detailed web browsers and smartphone apps may become, nothing can surpass visiting the real shops, can’t it?

Eventually, I emerged from the salon around three o’clock with shorter hair and my nails spick and span. Chilly air smacked my cheeks as I made my way towards Regent Street, and I stopped at the junction. Gee, am I really going through this? The crowd on the street were decidedly larger than the last time I saw them a few hours ago. All the plans I made at the salon were soon elbowed out of my head as I started to imagine how it would be like, like having to wait in a queue for a changing room, being frustrated by the lack of attention from busy shop assistants and enduring a tube journey even busier than a weekday’s rush hour, etc… Oh, I can’t be arsed! So, I headed home empty-handed.

When I got home, Hubbie was watching a football match on TV, and Bella was having a nap. ‘Was she a good girl?’ ‘Yup, she was.’ He answered half-heartedly as his gaze was firmly fixed to the TV. I scratched Bella’s plump tummy and felt glad that I was home. Oh well, I will have to shop locally and online until Christmas and Boxing Day Sale are over…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Sushi Socks @ SCP

A few days ago, Bella and I were at one of our favourite shop in our neighbourhood, SCP, on Curtain Road…

We were there to report to them that a FLOS floor lamp, which they repaired for us, was working beautifully and to express our gratitude for their help. They managed to resuscitate our favourite lamp which started to flash like a pulsar before its death. Despite the fact that the lamp was bought from them more than 10 years ago, instead of turning me away, stating that the warrenty had run out ages ago, they took it in, sourced the part for the repair and in the end, they asked for the cost of the part only and not a penny for their labour. I was truly touched by their kindness. Retailers such as SCP may not offer a large discount like those online only stores, however, their knowledge and care they dispense on site face to face is so valuable, and in the long run, the price paid at such outlet will worth every penny.

Bella loves to visit the shop too as they always make a big fuss over her…

Bella the Diva lives on being the centre of attention.

The shop floor was so Christmassy. Everywhere I turned, I could find exquisitely dressed shelves and tables with a full of ideas for a stylish and modern seasonal celebration.

‘Do you have a Christmas light which doesn’t need any outside power?’ This year’s window dressing will have to be Bella-proofed as she will pull down everything which her little teeth can reach. ‘Oh yeah, I see your problem. But we only have lights with plugs.’ Oh well, I have to borrow Heza’s brain when I see him later.

As Bella and I strolled between the display tables and cabinets, we bumped into hilarious gifts on sale…

Are they sushi?! Yes, they are Sushi Socks!

These socks are witty stocking fillers, aren’t they? However, they are not one of those cheap & nasty kinds which normally bought for “a bit of laugh on Christmas Day”…

Those realistic graphics are not digitally printed onto the fabric, but instead, they are knitted into the materials, using coloured threads for comfort and durability. How about that?

All those bautiful Modermist furniture, how much I salivate over them every time I visit this shop…

You know what, I shall buy a large townhouse and fill it with all the modern classics I can buy if I win a lottery. And most of the furniture and lightings will be coming from SCP!

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

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