1 For Mum & 1 For Me

From Danchi-Do, I brought back a book for mum and an old magazine for me.

A book I bought for mum…

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This book about French antiques & vintages, was written by Asabuki Tomiko (朝吹登美子) who was the first author to translate the works of French novelist, Françoise Sagan, famous for her book, “Bonjour Tristesse” (1954)…

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My mum loves travelling, especially to overseas.
However, her lower back had started to trouble her 7 years ago and at one stage the pain got so unbearable, she nearly gave up all hopes of boarding airplanes ever again.
But being always a little fighter, instead of popping pain-killer and taking up a more sedentary lifestyle, she started to walk in a shallow swimming pool in order to get fitter and strengthen the muscles to support her lower back. Under the watchful eye of her physician, she stuck to her exercise regimen day in day out for 6 years and eventually, her back was well enough for a long-haul flight. She proved herself by holidaying in NYC last October and was over the moon about her achievement.
By being given a book of European vintage and antique market, she would be even more motivated to be fitter and healthier, I thought…

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I’ve invited her to London this June, by the way. I can hardly wait to zoom around the city with her!

The magazine I bought for myself was Kurashi no Techo (暮しの手帖)…

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This magazine was first published in 1953 and had been well-known and trusted by consumers for having no advertiser to fund their publication.
It contained a number of interesting essays and articles for women, especially targeting housewives – like Good Housekeeping magazine with no ads.

The copy I brought home was the spring issue, 1971…

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The article was about how to use frozen vegetables…

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During the 70’s, the speed of westernisation in the Japanese lifestyle was accelerated and as the result, the way people cooked their everyday food had changed too. Eating in the western-style became fashionable and desirable…

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I showed the copy to Hubbie too when I was back in London. Some of the layouts and graphics were refreshingly modern. We were impressed…

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I really moan on about the disappearance of used bookshops in London. Where have they all gone? I miss them so much…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Yureki-Shobo @ Kanematu

When I bid farewell at Hana Chouchin, one of the sisters recommended another vintage bookshop, Yureki-Shobo, in the neighbourhood.
On my way to the bookshop, I came across Nishinomiya-jinja, a Shinto shrine, celebrating “Ebisu”,the Japanese god of fishermen and workingmen, as well as the guardian of the health of small children…

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It was a very cold day and a shimenawa, a think straw rope adorning the gate of shrine was swinging lightly in the wind time to time. By the way, the rope is believed to act as a ward against evil spirits…

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From Nishinomiya-jinja, the bookshop was a stone’s throw. On the side of a light-grey building with old-fashioned sliding doors, I found a sign with their logo on…

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The building used to be a disused factory. It was renovated in 2009, as a shared office space, a cafe, multi-purpose hall and a bookshop…

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I slid open a wooden door and found myself in the cafe. The smell of kerosene heater in the middle of the cafe was a welcoming scent for my frosty cheeks. A girl with an apron on approached me with smile and asked if I was here for coffee…

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The cafe was dotted with comfortable furnitures, such as Kotatsu. A kotatsu is a domestic heating device often laid out during Japanese winter time. A low, wooden table frame with a built-in electric heater is covered by a quilt, and on top of it, a table top is placed…

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Most of the guests sank themselves cozily in plush sofas placed in front of the bookshelves…

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In the showcase, a few buns were left but no cake…

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The bookshop I was after was to be approached through the cafe. Beyond another glazed sliding doors, there was a multi-purpose hall and the bookshop was adjacent to the hall…

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On the ceiling, there was an art-deco style lighting…

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And a globe in the middle of the shop floor.
All four walls, except around the door frame, were clad with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves. This windowless square space, completed with the lighting and the glove in its centre, created a curious other-worldliness…

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Mr.Miyajima, the owner of the shop, working behind the till…

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He backpacked after graduating a local high school. During his wandering years, he encountered books left behind by fellow backpackers at youth hostels he stayed and by reading them, he found his journey even more enjoyable as well as reflective…

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Every single book on the shelves was handpicked by Mr.Miyajima at various book auctions all over Japan, reflecting his diverse interest and expert knowledge of each subject. He certainly was a concierge for any book lover.
A magic carpets in the shape of book is available at Yureki-Shobo. Just tell Mr.Miyajima where you want to travel to and he will pick the best book for you from the shelves…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Mr.B’s X’mas Hose Down

How did your Christmas Day go? I hope everyone had a lovely celebration with loved ones. Mine felt like as if I had a “Christmas fatigue” once the D-Day arrived. Too much thought and effort went in during the period up to Christmas Day. And as soon as the 25th came, the exhaustion set in and I didn’t feel like jumping around and shouting ‘Merry Christmas!’ Oh well…

As I have mentioned before, I am leaving for Japan tomorrow. Therefore, my Boxing Day is literally “boxing” up my suitcase. Unfortunately, I  don’t travel light like my Hubbie does and packing for a long holiday does give me a massive headache.

Prior to the trip, there was another task I had to do. Which was…

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Washing Mr.B!
I will be away for 3 weeks and won’t like him to be scratching himself mad.

Temporarily, he looked like a visitor from an alien planet…

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He was not a happy chap. Would you like to be blow-dried?
One odd thing about Mr.B was his love for a hairdryer! He became visibly happy once I produced my ionic hairdryer…

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Once dried & combed, his appearance returned to the usual style, phew!

Even though I look forward to visiting my mum and having a quality time with her, I am worried about the duo, Hubbie & Mr.B, who I am leaving behind for 3 weeks. Because washing-up is a word to be found only in the dictionary of mine and I am not 100% confident if Hubbie knows how to use household appliances. Oh well, what good does me worrying do right now? I can always help him through email & Skype if he is stuck. And let’s not my imagination run wild about the state of our flat when I return on the 16th January…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Tonkotsu @ Dean Street

I was caught out in a downpour and my boots including socks were soaking wet…
While others took shelters, I kept on walking because I had a brolly….
A BIIIIIIIIIG MISTAKE!
The rain drops got bigger and bigger and started pelting on me harder and harder. As the result, I was damp all over apart from my head.

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While trying hard to ignore the clamminess in my boots, I kept on shuffling towards Soho.
Because I had an important mission to fulfil. – Fei & I were to sample ramen noodle at Tonkotsu on Dean Street! And I was very much looking forward to it…

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We were comfortably seated at the table by the bar.
The time was around 6:30pm and the place was already filling up with diners…

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So far so good. We liked their decor.
The tables could do with some hooks so bags could be stored without having to place them on the floor.

Again, we ordered Torinokaraage – fried chicken and Gyoza – pork dumpling as starters…

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The dumplings were nicer than Shoryu’s. The skin was crispy without being overdone. And the pork filling was nicely seasoned. The fried chicken was juicy and plentiful.

For our plat de résistance, we ordered Soho Ramen – salt based pork and chicken stock with medium thick noodles topped with smoked haddock, pak choi, half an egg, memma and spring onion…

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I liked the fish a lot!
Never had the ramen like this ever but it was very agreeable. What a good idea.
I liked the broth too. It was the lightest amongst all the three noodle bars we tried recently. The texture  was delicate yet certainly not lacking a flavour.
I suppose it all depends on personal preference – some prefers  rich and heavy broth, and some like me, prefers it lighter and simpler. Therefore, I give my vote to Tonkotsu’s broth as my No.1 favourite.
Another brownie point they won from me was their noodle. I loved it!
It was the best I ever tasted in London. Prior to our visit, I learnt that they made their own ramen noodle freshly to their liking. So my expectation to it was sky-high. And they did not disappoint me.

This was how they cooked my tasty ramen…

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About the service, it was friendly and efficient. They earned my top mark.

A glossy Old Compton Street after the downpour…

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Visiting Maisom Bertaux after ramen became our new routine…

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We ordered a  large pot of Darjeeling and a Mont Blanc to share…

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The charm of this salon du thé is hard to describe in one word.
Their timelessness is one thing. But their sincerity and honesty also flow through the well-used furnishing and decor. The history is etched on everywhere without being overbearing…

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The point is they aren’t even trying to be fashionable or chic.
A little shabby, perhaps. However, they offer such a comfort which is becoming ever so difficult to get in this busy modern city.

Has anyone tried their Marzipan Figs? The green one in the back…

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Or their chocolate truffle which is as big as a small child’s fist?
Mmmm… I must try them next time.

We walked towards Piccadilly Circus.
The rain was clearing and we could see a blue sky behind the grey fluff.
I love the view of Regent Street from this angle..,

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I just adore the handsomeness of this city.
Thank you, John Nash. You were genius.
Oh and to you sir, George IV for bankrolling him, of course…

Night tea @ Maison Bertaux

About the picnic, I couldn’t make it in the end.
I woke up with a bad sore throat – a change in the weather always brings me a bunged up nose and a sore throat. Therefore, I wrapped a cotton scarf by Epice around my neck and stayed home.
Oh, bu**er…

After our ramen dinner the other night, Fei and I decided to have tea & cake at Maison Bertaux on Greek Street.
The weather then was still balmy, so Old Compton Street was overflowing with office-workers and tourists who couldn’t fit in pubs and bars.
Everyone was chatting and laughing with a glass in hand, having a great time. The people clung and buzzed like swarming bees around their apiary.
A happy sight of a typically London summer…

We dodged and shimmied through the raucous crowd and reached to Maison Bertaux in one piece.
It was obvious that Soho punters were more interested in booze than tea & cake, therefore, we settled in one of the empty tables straight away. What cake should I have?…

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There weren’t that many cakes on offer.
Though, their shelves were laden with creamy, chocolaty & fruity offerings during the day.

It was more than 20 years ago when I sat here and tasted their cake for the first time.

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The things hasn’t changed even the slightest in my view.
Don’t you find it remarkable in this modern world?
I sincerely hope that they will stay with us forever. I fear for it if they are bullied to pack up by a greedy landlord or a developer and the place is replaced by yet another chain restaurant or bar. We have more than enough uninteresting chain outlets in Central London already. If any harm comes to this gem of Soho, I will collect petitions and chain
myself to their showcase!

As usual, I had a fruit eclair with English breakfast tea.
Fei had a lemon cake and darjeeling…

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We poured each other’s tea and chatted tirelessly.

It seemed only fitting that I should walk home in order to burn the excess calories I consumed…

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It was a windless night.
The air still retained the warmth from daytime yet felt cleaner.
The streets were calmer and quieter. The pandemonium of a daily London chaos is swept away without a trace.

I looked into a window of the photography gallery at Clerkenwell  Green…

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Wished if Hubbie were there with me then.
I would have loved to know what he thought about those portraits…

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