Finesse is required…

‘Isn’t it a bit too early?’ Hubbie threw a quizzical look as he placed a small LED Christmas tree on one of the window sill. ‘Not at all! All the Christmas illuminations in West End have been switched on. So why shouldn’t ours?’ This week, Habitat was offering a 20% off deal and I took the opportunity to overhaul our tired seasonal decorations. Out goes the black plastic tree I bought from Paperchase years ago and in comes twinkling LED decorations. Hubbie will see the lightings as he walk home from work. ‘It’s gonna be like a beacon. How do you find the idea?’ His usual reservation melted away as he visualised our window delicately glowing in the distance as he braves the winter chill. ‘Mmm, sounds nice’. Yeah, listen to your wife…  
A project I am working on right now will also be a chill buster for Hubbie because the articles I am knitting is a scarf. Some people may be surprised to learn that I’ve never knitted a scarf in my life until now. My very first knitting project was a shrug and after that I went on making clothing instead of accessories, such as scarfs, arm warmers, hats or gloves…

  
Every time Heza, my male model / adviser, urged me to think about expanding my collections to accessories, I resisted, insisting they wouldn’t be interesting or challenging enough for me. For instance, how could I handle the boredom caused by having to repeat the same monotonous procedure yards after yards which would be inevitable for knitting a long scarf? ‘But this is a business, Kaori. Your products should be more accessible than be couture-like only!’ Yeah, he might have a point.

So one day, I started. Well, the thing I discovered at the end of day 1 was, knitting a scarf is not as easy as I first imagined. What was difficult was how orderly the edges of the scarf had to be. As the result, I undid all and started again the next morning…
  
When I make an outfit such as a jumper or a cardigan, I never need to scrutinise the tidiness of the edges because the garment is knitted around a mannequin seamlessly. The edges are all temporary before they are integrated into the adjoining parts, and become invisible…

  
However, for a scarf, the edges have to be neat and tidy as they are left exposed. Another thing I learnt at the end of day 2, as I gaze upon a pile of yarn which I had finished undoing, was not all the stitches were suitable for a scarf. I tried a mix of two stitches for my first attempt but found the result was not dense enough for my liking and the rows looked crooked and wonky…

  
Then, this is my third attempt. It has turned out to be more promising so far. The stitches are not too clustered and the resulting article has volume and density without being too heavy in weight..

   
 
I still have another metre or so to carry on and then, tassels to be attached at the both ends. Et voila, it will be done. My very first scarf in the world! How exciting…
Kaori by Kaori Okumura 

Advertisements

Get it right, PLEASE…

First of all, my sincere condolence to all the victims of the recent terror attacks in Paris and Bamako. I am shocked, saddened, disgusted and outraged by the atrocities committed by those psychopathic petty criminals and thugs who simply wanted to intimidate and destroy our way of life. We will never succumb to their hate and their cowardly attacks. This is the time of showdown between good and evil.

Me, being born and raised in the Far East, noodle dishes, such as ramen, soba and udon, are definitely a sort of comfort food I reach out every now and then. Even though my daily menu consists mainly of western style food and most of the time I am happy with it, yet time to time, a sudden craving for oriental food pounces on me out of the blue. For example, it was a plate of crispy seafood fried noodle I was obsessed about the other day. ‘Can we go to Loong Kee on Kingsland Road? I am desperate for their fried noodle’ I begged Hubbie and he duly obliged. However, upon arriving at the door of the restaurant, we notice something vital was amiss. A brimful of oriental clientele, who used to be a dominant feature in any day of the week, were nowhere to be seen. Where have they all gone? It was an ominous sign. A waiter in smart brown uniform briskly ushered us to a table. I looked around and noticed a few more changes in the dining area. For a start, artworks on the walls were new and the seating arrangement was different. ‘Has the place changed hands?!’ Hubbie scratched his chin and nodded, ‘Yup, looks like it, doesn’t it?’ Somewhat disconcerted, we shifted our attention to the menu.

The menu of Loong Kee used to be long and elaborate. Laminated pages displayed dish names in Vietnamese with English translations and some of them had accompanying images which resembled the one from the encyclopaedia, a retro pre-CD & pre-Wikipedia kind. Kitschy and garish in a charming way.

Unfortunately, the new menu we studied had none of the old charm but a bog-standard laser printed pages with a far fewer choices. And not only that, there was no crispy seafood fried noodle! ‘Do you still serve crispy seafood fried noodle here?’ I asked the waiter who came to take our order.? He looked at me like as if I spoke to him in Martian and shook his head, ‘No ma’am. We don’t do it.’ My heart sank very deep into their Lino flooring. I can’t even remember what I ended up choosing as an alternative but I do remember leaving the restaurant still hungry mentally. Hubbie and I both agreed that Loong Kee had changed completely except the name and vowed that we would never go back there again…

As the weather turned colder and the days became shorter, my urge for a steamy bowl of ramen was awakened. It was also a perfect excuse to catch up with my close friend, Fei, so invited her to join me for an early dinner at Tonkotsu on Dean Street in Soho. We travelled from Russell Square by very crowded Piccadilly Line to equally busy Leicester Square.

The skyline of Chinatown was adorned with strings of lanterns…


At our favourite ramen haunt, Tonkotsu, we shared Gyoza dumplings and fried chickens as starters. We discovered it with regret that the dumplings were rather meanly stuffed and the chicken pieces were undercooked. Fei and I picked and poked the skinny Gyoza with our chopsticks and complained how wrong they were, comparing to proper dumplings of the Far East. The sad thing was, their Gyoza used to be a lot better. They were sumptuously stuffed and grilled as all proper Gyoza should be. Changing the recipe of their dumplings may have been their attempt to cut the cost but I wouldn’t buy such a short-sighted strategy. I would simply skip their economised version of Gyoza altogether on my next visit because I wouldn’t be happy with “buggy” Gyoza. Why didn’t they increase the price slightly instead? If they were tasty, I wouldn’t mind another 50p added on a bill.

As we gingerly munched on the less than perfect starters, two bowls of steaming Soho ramen were brought to our table. Thank god, they fared a lot better…


Choosing the style of ramen is a matter of personal preference. And therefore, my personal liking / disliking doesn’t mean a thing. However, as I posted sometime ago, I prefer a delicately flavoured kind when it comes to ramen broth. And Tonktsu’s Soho ramen fits the bill perfectly because the broth is clear and light. I made a mistake of ordering Kuro Tan Tan ramen at Shoryu in Kingly Court the other day…


I was recovering from a prolonged head cold and wanting to eat something hot. A bad call! The broth turned out to be as thick as porridge and also very salty. It was unpalatable as it was and a mug of hot water had to be brought from the kitchen so I could dilute the broth. I wished if they understood the fact that “strongly seasoned” wouldn’t necessarily mean “richly flavoured”. Their chef’s tongues may be desensitised by tasting the broth frequently but they really should be easy on using salt. I ended up paying £13 and leaving the restaurant still hungry because I couldn’t stomach the noodle which was way too briny.

After Tonkotsu, Fei and I headed to our usual post dinner haunt, Maison Bertaux on Frith Street…


Over a pot of Rooibos tea with cakes, we chatted about a photo shoot we were planning for the early next year. Her sunglasses and my knitwear collection were to be modelled by our friends and photographed by Hubbie. The idea about styling and art-direction zoomed back and forth between us and we were both tickled by the excitement of it.

After bidding her good night, I opted for walking home rather than catching a bus. Since I indulged myself with dumplings, fried chickens, ramen and a cake, burning the excess calorie by walking seemed to be the most righteous thing to do. As I approached the site of the former Central Saint Martin’s by Southhampton Row, I saw a swarm of paparazzi circling around the entrance of the building…


Out of the blue, a woman in a stunning blue skirt appeared and she strutted towards the door despite the paparazzi were blasting flashing lights in her face…


Who were those people and what was the party for, I wondered as I strolled through Clerkenwell. A celebrity Halloween party? I saw some people with costumes…


Later, I learned Nick Knight the photographer was hosting a one night only exhibition.

Shame I wasn’t invited…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

James Bond afterthought…

Yup, we’ve watched it.And my verdict is 8/10.

If the opening sequence weren’t so cheesy – James Bond with his ripped torso being sandwiched by two females while their hands were running up and down suggestively & a giant rubber octopus breakdancing in the background – it would have been much better. BTW, why the octopus? As a metaphor, it’s hardly menacing like Komodo dragons or snakes, is it??? Also, the opening sequence was way way too long. I know it had to be that way so the theme song by Sam Smith could be fitted in full. But the tune was rather mediocre and the effect was tacky (sorry to be blunt). Another couple of niggles were: it was a bit too easy for Bond to assassinate one of his targets. Why have a meeting by the window in broad daylight? I would have had it in the basement if I wanted to live longer. And another thing was paying a too overly obvious homage to the past Bond series. A Mao collar jacket on a villain, a fluffy white cat and a secret base on a stupendous scale (therefore it can be that secret), etc. It was a bit too silly to swallow with good humour.

Oh well, it’s the Bond film after all, isn’t it? We were still thrilled to watch it. The stunts were breathtaking and the special effects were really entertaining. I can’t recommend any higher.

Instead of our customary steak frites at the Côte by Silk Street, we decided to have pre-cinema lunch at Barbican Kitchen. The cafeteria seemed to have gone under some serious changes while our absence. A large table by the entrance, which used to be laden with various cakes to lure us into the venue, was no longer there. ‘Looks a bit bare, doesn’t it’, Hubbie twitched his nose disapprovingly. We walked through now a forlorn entrance area and join a queue for hot foods. As I picked up a tray by the counter, I noticed a stack of brown paper napkins with the logo of well-known upmarket high street chain. Has this place taken over by Benugo?! 
I gave a row of pizza a miss and opted for braised beef with some steamed broccoli and tomato salad…

  
The beef was tenderly cooked but a little on the bland side flavour-wise. Hubbie opted for a large ball of arancini with steamed vegetables and said they were OK.

It was a shame that they decided to reduce their cake selections.Because we fancied none of the offering behind the present counter. I was sure that they were losing substantial earning potential by not keeping the former cake display. Instead of bog standard brownies and muffins, bring back Victoria sponge and red velvet cake!!!
Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Growing up with James Bond..

‘Sunday at 14:15 good for you?’Hubbie yelled out while he stared at the screen of his Mac intently. He was booking tickets for a new Bond film SPECTRE at Barbican Cinema. ‘Yup, sounds great!’ I yelled back, feeling a surge of excitement.

Yippee, Bond is back in town…


I tell you that I wasn’t always a fan of the world’s most famous spy.

During my childhood in Japan, I grew up watching the Bond films often. It wasn’t that I was very fond of them, but it was more like they were happened to be on whenever my family and I were sitting in front of the box. I can’t remember who decided what programme to watch during those afternoons. Those post-lunch hours, the time we mingled together in the drawing room while nursing our full stomachs. It must have been my father who picked the channel. The Bond films were his kind of thing. Exotic locations, beautiful girls in skintight gears, sharp suits, first cars, etc. On the contrary, my mum would never have chosen the film as family entertainment. She was a bit on the priggish side and not very pro-James Bond and wouldn’t have approved his way of wooing women in the films. I could see her blinking nervously every time the scene changed to Bond and a Bond girl stretch their svelte limbs over a satin sheet or hot sand, cooing to each other. I guess she didn’t think those saucy scenes were very appropriate for children at an impressionable age.

For me, the way Mr.Bond flirted with his girls was the least of bother. The thing bothered me the most was the silliness of Bond’s gadgets. Even for a kid like me, some of the tools which M assigned to Bond’s missions were just too absurd to be believable. ‘Now, pay attention, 007…’, as M starting his usual demonstration with Bond at his side, Oh boy, how many time my eyes somersaulted. Another things I didn’t like much were James Bond’s character and his demeanour. Especially, Roger Moore’s take of James Bond was too smooth and slick. I just hated it as much as I hated pin-sharp creases on his trousers…

As the Cold War ended at the beginning of the 90’s and the concept of “the West vs the East” gradually ebbed away, the appeal of the Bond Film petered out too. James Bond was an ultimate weapon to preserve the goodness of the Western Bloc against the evil intentions of the Eastern Bloc, which were thrown over across invisible (& visible) borders crisscrossing the globe. As the Berlin Wall was chipped away by euphoric Germans and souvenir hunters, the Bond’s fictional villains also crumbled away and their stature much reduced in the post Cold War series.
Then, Daniel Craig, aka “The 007” emerged from the sea in Casino Royale (2006) with a pair of light blue swimming trunks. The way he materialised out of the surf resembled the Venus in “The Birth of Venus” by Botticelli who represented the renascence of beauty and the arrival of new era. A new dawn for the James Bond. And I liked it.

The 007 in the new sequels is tougher, serious, less dapper and refreshingly gadget-free. He sorts out his villains with bareknuckle fisticuffs rather than resorting to silly electronic gimmicks. His character has been given more depth too. Instead of being a philandering killing machine which was the usual stereotype of the past Bonds, Daniel Craig’s has more raw emotions to share with the audience and it makes the character more multi-dimensional and likeable.

The Bond’s enemies are also given more realistic roles too. They are far from those showy megalomaniac villains with weapons of mass destruction who used to taunt the Bonds played by Sean Connery, Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan from their private islands. His new foes’ exteriors are more ordinary and obscure. Still, their intentions are as lethal as Dr.No’s or Scaramanga’s. Instead of lusting for a lofty goal such as world domination, they are after energy supplies, money or settling an old score with his ex-boss. Their aims maybe more modest but the way they try to attain them are bloody and seedy.

All in all, the new Bond is far more substantial in every way and worth watching it on a large screen.

I haven’t read any of the previews of the new sequel, SPECTRE. I deliberately avoid them so I can watch it with no preconceptions. The trailer of the film look so exciting and I sincerely hope it will live up to my expectation…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Picking up from where it was left…

Originally, the following entry was posted on my old blog, Twist & Turn, unfinished. It was due to the site’s media upload capacity reaching its maximum and I could no longer continue.

In this new blog, KAORILONDON, I am going to log my everyday life including my beloved family, creative interest and hobbies. Exactly like I used to do in Twist & Turn but hopefully updating will be more often.

A Brief Summery Of The Summer 2015…

To be perfectly honest, the summer of 2015 was a dismal affair.Hubbie suffered a severe shingles attack at the beginning of the August and the effect of it carried on almost towards the end of the month. As  the result, I was running around like a hamster jumping on / off from the wheel in her cage. The time whizzed past over my head while I administered bandages on Hubbie’s swollen-up hand and arm twice a day and kept eyes on a clock 24/7 so he wouldn’t unwittingly overdose on antibiotic or painkiller. There was no Instagram wothy moment during the August, I must say.

By comparison, the July was less melodramatic and more tranquil. I was reunited with my old friend from Japan and we visited Hatfield House together on one somewhat cloudy Sunday.
Our journey to Hatfield from Kings Cross was an unexpectedly cramped one. As we climbed aboard and trod through the carriages, we found most of the seats were already taken up by the fellow passengers. ‘Where are they heading to?’, we both exchanged a weary smile while we made ourself comfortable settling into the seats which we managed to secure for ourselves within the carriage further down. From our neighbour’s demeanour, it was obvious that they were festival goers. Booze, sunglasses, Dr.Martens, riders jackets, etc, it was unmistakably blazon across. ‘I’m sure they aren’t going to Hatfield for that’, I assured my friend…
Oh boy, how wrong I was.
Even before the carriage came to standstill, most of the passengers around us stood up and started to form a queue at the doors. As we poured over the platform like baked beans from a tin, security personnels with fluorescent yellow HV vests briskly herded us up and ordered us to keep on moving towards the exit. ‘What on earth is going on here? Their website didn’t mention anything about a festival business!’, my companion and I shook our heads in disbelief. As far as we could see, there were crowd-control steel barriers, police vans, tickets touts, empty beer bottles, rubbish and people with wristbands. Nothing like we expected of Hatfield House and the surrounding park in where certain well known historical events happened, such as a young Elizabeth I being chased by Lord Seymour and also being informed about her accession to the English throne as she sat under a (oak?) tree with a book on her lap! We fretted over our next move at the station exit. Should we stay? Or should we leave? My friend didn’t want to waste her precious holiday in London. ‘Do you know if Hatfield House is still open or is it closed because of the festival?’, we asked a policeman who was inspecting the steel barriers. He assured us with a smile that the house was open as usual and gave us a direction where to find the ticket office.

A boisterous yet good-natured crowd trickling into another side of the park. The sight made both of us feel very old…

After buying tickets, we decided to have lunch at an adjacent cafe…

I didn’t take any photo of my plate because the food wasn’t very good at all. I opted for their salad selection but it turned out to be over-cooked and under-seasoned. It was a great shame because the staffs were so charming and helpful.

Hatfield House…

A grand house though I found the forecourt rather bare and cheerless. My disappointment was compounded by an ugly fountain installed right in front of the building. The installation was too modern – all shiny stainless steel- and too out of place, I didn’t even want to take a picture. Why are they doing this to me? I was grumpy because this super blingy fountain and a distant but audible beat from the festival was definitely stopping me from enjoying a time warp to the Tudor period.
However, the situation was improved once we were inside the house.

A large portrait of Elizabeth I. The most famous occupier of the property…

Every bits and pieces of the woodworks were ornately carved and decorated and the ceiling and staircases were no exception…



The house was beautifully presented and their memorabilia on display helped us to imagine how daily life in the bygone time was used to be like…


  

I was not a big fan of Downton Abbey, as it looked to me like a modern soap opera in period costumes. However, the grand lifestyle portrayed in the programme, which was enjoyed by a privileged few in the olden days, did captivate my imagination. Umpteen family photographs in silver frames, which were scattered all over the house, portrayed the inhabitants of the manor in the various stages of their lives. One individual in particular who caught my attention was Richard Hugh Cecil (31 Jan 1924 12 Aug 1944), the son of Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, 5th Marquess of Salisbury. He was a young man in a black & white photograph which was displayed in the glass display cabinet by the corner of one of the drawing rooms. In the medium size rectangular frame, there were also his parents and his siblings, all of them smiling broadly towards the person behind the lens. It looked like any other impromptu family portrait which was solely there to record a happy occasion. Yet, a brief typed note placed next to the photo informed that Richard, a sergeant pilot, died during the Second World War. He was only 20 years old. The affable expressions which filled the portrait was a poignant reminder of the cruelty of armed conflict. And I was deeply moved by it.

In the library, we found a very intriguing piece of furniture…


We couldn’t figure out the purpose of “trays” around the chair. In which way the chair supposed to be seated? A hammer shark’s head-like backrest mystified us the most. It looked too stumpy and short to be a side wing of a normal armchair. What kind of a chair is this???

We managed to grab a guide and he showed us how it was meant to be used…

A chair designed for a hardcore bookworm! A large tray was for a book and two small side trays were for drinks. The contraption was not a beauty but the idea was ingenious, we all agreed.
The opposite to floor to ceiling bookshelves laden with countless leather bound books, there was a wall comprised of large old-fashioned paned windows which overlooked the West Garden. The garden was apparently adored by many gardening enthusiasts around the country…


Hatfield House is a prime example of early 17th-century architecture. The plan of the house forms a letter “E” – a typical of the style in the Tudor period.

The armoury / cloisters which ran east to west was the stem of the E. Striking features of this space were elaborately onate plasterwork on the ceiling and black & white marble squares which fill the floor wall-to-wall. In front of the each bay on the south wall with modern arabesque work, late 16th-century armour stood guard.

A rocking horse cut a lonely figure with a backdrop of a beautifully decorated chinoiserie screen…

The vibrancy of the blooming flowers in the garden was somewhat sullied by the  overhanging clouds…


Adjacent to the west garden was the Old Palace…

Originally, the property belonged to James I who ascended to the English throne after Elizabeth I. When it was constructed in late 15-century, the building was much larger – the remaining structure of the present day is only one quarter of the original floorplan.

The building was built with attractive red brick with tiled roof in the same hue…

The present structure is the remains of the former west wing of the palace. It housed the Great Hall with an open timber roof which must have witnessed numerous grand state occasions in its heyday. However, most of the palace was consigned to oblivion through alterations and demolitions over the time. Fortunately, the west wing was kept and it was converted to stables in early 17th century.

During our visit, the Palace was hosting a wedding reception. As we walked around the perimeter of the famed Knot garden, we caught a glimpse of the newly-weds answering a photocall with their guests.

The festival in the distance was still in full swing when we decided to head home…


As we boarded a London-bound train, we were confronted with a sorry sight, the entire carriage strewn with discarded booze bottles! Alas, the behaviour amongst the Brits when it came to being merry, it never seemed to have changed circa  Samuel Pepys’ Diary…

Blog at WordPress.com.