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Tokyo: Awesome Bara-chirashi At Sushi Sho

 photo L1000516-150219-v2__zpsnyedq6wb.jpgI have not been to Jiro.  Or any of the other famous sushi restaurants in Tokyo like Mizutani, Sushi Saito, Sushi Dai.  It is just too difficult to get a reservation.  Most of them accept reservations only one month before your intended visit and even if you do call up exactly one month before, my experience is that the restaurant is most likely to be fully booked.  

So I was not terribly disappointed when my hotel’s guest relations officer wrote me an email to say that they were unable to get me a dinner reservation at Sushi Sho for the entire duration of my 6-day stay in Tokyo.  I was just trying my luck.  Like buying lottery.  But I was surprised that the hotel managed to get us a lunch reservation at Sushi Sho, and asked if we were fine with their bara-chirashi lunch set, as that is the only thing that Sushi Sho serves at lunch.  Of course we said yes!  Sushi Sho makes only 20 sets of bara-chirashi a day.  

Sushi Sho is located in Yotsuya, on a side street that is a short walk away from the Yotsuya station (on the Marunouchi line).  The Zen-looking entrance to the restaurant looked rather intimidating.  I was wondering if lunch was going to be an uncomfortably serious, stern, austere affair.  I hear that some of the famous sushi places are like that.  I have to remember to be on my best behavior.

 photo L1000519-150219-v2__zpsj9xctol8.jpgAt exactly 12.40pm, we opened the wooden sliding door and was warmly welcomed by one of the chef assistants.  In contrast to the stillness outside the restaurant, it was quite noisy inside!  Lots of laughter and banter between the chefs and guests.   The place was full, and many guests (mostly elderly Japanese men and women) from the first seating were getting ready to leave.  We were shown to our seats, at the end of a 10-seat counter.  I took a quick photo from my seat (above), and that is the entire restaurant.  It is tiny!  

Many of the chef assistants could speak English so I could make some small talk with them while waiting for lunch to be served. They were quite friendly and chatty, and assured me that it was okay to take photographs in the restaurant.

 photo IMG_0785-150220-v2__zpsjgs2ygpf.jpgThis beautifully presented bowl of bara-chirashi was incredibly delicious, and it came with an equally delicious bowl of asari soup.  This set cost us Yen 2,000 per person (approximately US$20).  It is such a steal and worth every penny, given the high quality of ingredients.  That’s only a little more then what Teppei charges for its takeaway bara-chirashi here in Singapore.  

When I next visit Tokyo, I am definitely trying to get another lunch reservation at Sushi Sho.  

Sushi Sho 
Yorindo Building, 1F
1-11 Yotsuya Shinjuku-ku
Tokyo, Japan
Tel: +813 3351 6387

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S$10 Headshots For Charity

I decided to run a simple photo project for charity this year that involves me taking a photo of you, in return for a donation of $10 (people are free to give more if they wish) to any of the four charities that this project currently supports.  The four charities are: SPD, Bone Marrow Donor Program, the APEX Rehabilitation Centre For The Elderly and the Children’s Cancer Foundation.  I am thinking about adding a fifth charity – the Cat Welfare Society.  (I like cats, that’s why.)

This is not a new idea.  I read about this project on ShootTokyo a while ago and have been toying with the idea of doing something similar, but I have always been caught up with dealing with various work and personal issues so the idea stayed as an idea.  It is only recently that I decided to do something about it.  Perhaps the thought of entering  mid-life spurred me on as I suddenly feel that more of my life is behind me than it is in front of me.  There is no time to hem-and-haw about the things that I have always thought about doing.  Let’s just do it.  

This charity project is fairly to kick-start.  It does not require much planning or financial resources, just a camera and Lightroom!  Since I like taking photographs, this will be fun, and I get to do it all at my own time and pace.  It also forces me to reach out to friends to meet up.  It is also fun for them,  since they get to pose for a photo and chip in a small token for charity.  

How does one donate? Donations can be made on the GiveAsia website here, using your credit card.  The photo is basically a headshot of you – a photo of your upper body and face, and a copy will be emailed to you.   I have also set up a Facebook page to share these photos; if you want to contribute to this project, please reach out to me on the Facebook page!  

Not sure how this will turn out, but at the very least, I know I am gonna have fun doing it.

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Starting All Over Again With the Rangefinder

I bought a rangefinder manual focus camera recently, and I am learning how to use it.  I am starting from scratch with this camera – learning how to compose, focus and click the shutter at the right moment.  I took it out with me for some practice shots this weekend.  As I am still practising how to focus manually, I place less focus on composition. So my photos with this camera have so far turned out badly framed and some even look lopsided.

 photo L1000118-150206-v2__zps611cd3e5.jpgStarbucks, Parklane@ECP.  The store was very crowded on a Saturday morning.  Plenty of cyclists and joggers streaming in after their morning exercise for air-conditioning and breakfast.   In spite of the crowds, I love going there on weekends.  The store is located in a huge open space with plenty of free parking.  

 photo L1000157-150207-v2__zps2a876a79.jpgRepetto, ION Orchard.  I like wearing their ballet flats.  An the Repetto stores look so inviting with their warm colors and chandeliers.  I have this thing for chandeliers, and I wish I could have one in my home; pity, the ceiling at home is too low to hang one.

 photo L1000145-150207-v2__zpsa31e168d.jpgHeadline Seoul, Wheelock Place.  One of my favorite places to shop for dresses.  I like most things Korean, with the exception of their electronics and cars.

 photo L1000142-150207-v2__zpse3dda30b.jpgMelissa Shoes Singapore, Wheelock Place.  I like the quirky decor of Melissa.  Whoever did the visual merchandising for them, I like what you have done.  Even though I wear mostly flats from Repetto or open-toed Saltwater sandals, I cannot resist popping into the shop to check out their shoes whenever I walk past the shop to get to Isetan.  I bought a pair of the Melissa x Jason Wu jelly ballet flats in a pretty shade of blush pink, but pity, the shoes did not fit me so well and I sold them on Carousell after a few wears.  I was surprised to receive so many offers for the shoes shortly after listing them for sale.  I did not realize that the brand is so popular.

 photo L1000158-150207-v2__zps6d89fed5.jpgLeica, ION Orchard.  The famous red dot. Every photographer’s dream to own a Leica, no?  

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Crocheting: Daisy Vintage Purses

Despite feeling lethargic during the weekends (all I want to do is to lie down on the sofa with a glass of wine), I managed to find some time to crochet a new purse, in July 4th colors of white, blue and red.

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I learnt how to sew a simple daisy from one of my Applemint crochet books.  And sewed a pearl bead onto the blue part of the purse.  

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Fairly simple design.  I just didn’t have the energy to do more.

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Crocheting: Jar Covers

 photo DSC_0693-150104-v2__zps59b6a600.jpgI received a Japanese crochet pattern book called “Kyuuto! Japanese Crafts” for Christmas which contained loads of cute, lovely crochet patterns – coasters, square and round dollies, tissue box covers, coin purse, phone covers, jar covers, baby shoes, pot holders, etc.  

I have been wanting to try my hand at crocheting jar covers because I have a number of empty jam jars that I would like to recycle to use as holders by dressing them up with a nice cover.  The pattern for jar covers in Kyuuto looked easy – just repeating rows of double stitches and single stitches.  You can easily increase or decrease the number of rows for the base to accommodate varying jar sizes.

 photo DSC_0692-150104-v2__zpscc89acb4.jpgA bright and cheery cover for a small Ikea glass that I use to hold a little pot of succulent.  I concealed the ugly joining stitches of the cover with two big wooden buttons that I bought at one of the shops in People’s Park Centre.  This is a good crochet craft to make while watching a Korean drama because I do not have to keep referring to the pattern, or count stitches. πŸ™‚

 photo 760_0Image_zpsa240224b.jpgThis is a really good crochet pattern book, with easy-to-follow patterns in English. It was on my to-buy list, and was so glad to receive it as a gift! So this jar cover went to my friend who gave me the book.

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My Blog Is Still Alive!

This blog was down for more than 3 days since early Saturday morning.  I couldn’t get any response from my web hosting company about what was going on (very bad customer service, really), and I was wondering if the company had decided to call it a day without giving customers any advance notice.  That would probably be the end of this blog since I didn’t have a backup of the files in my computer.

I am glad to see that is back online again.  The reason given by the web hosting company was that they were doing some maintenance over the weekend.  I don’t buy that excuse one bit; but we shall see.  Crossing fingers that this blog does not go down again, something which has been happening a little too frequently lately.

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Black Forest Cake Baking Class With Dulcet & Studio

I like Black Forest cake very much. Unfortunately, it is hard to find a good one in the local bakeries. Most places do not use enough alcohol, if they even use any in the first place, so it feels as though I am eating a dry chocolate sponge cake stuffed with cherries and cream.  A cake cannot be called a Black Forest cake if it does not contain kirsch, can it?  At least in Germany, I suppose.

When my friend – she goes to Dulcet & Studio every month for baking classes – told me that the studio is having a class on Black Forest cake, I decided to sign up for it. The last time I attended a class at Dulcet & Studio was a year ago. Time really flies, doesn’t it?

 photo IMG_1228-150104-v2__zps22e4af2a.jpgI enjoyed the class a little more this time, compared to my previous experience.  This time, the teacher, Mayumi-san, taught two items (instead of three), so the pace was slower and there was more hands-on time.  She taught us how to bake, assemble and decorate a heart-shaped (you can’t really tell from the photograph) Black Forest cake using chocolate sponge cake, chocolate cream, fresh cream, kirsch, black cherries soaked in syrup and alcohol, and chocolate shavings.  

 photo IMG_1336-150109-v2__zps9bc9d51d.jpgThe cake was good.  The kirsh-soaked sponge cake was moist and not too sweet.  The alcohol-soaked black cherries were tinged with bitterness (luvre!).  Mmmmm, I am eating a slice of the cake as I type out this post.

 photo IMG_1233-150104-v2__zpsb450b34f.jpgMayumi-san also showed us how to bake creme caramel.  So easy to make! Her recipe is very good but having said that, creme caramel is not a dessert that I am ordinarily fond of eating.  Too sweet for my tastebuds.

 photo IMG_1334-150104-v2__zpsd5f9d75b.jpgThe very pretty sensei.  She is teaching Japanese Strawberry Shortcake and lamingtons in February.     

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Last Day Of 2014

I worked half-a-day on New Year’s Eve, before heading out with my team for lunch.   Pity that the quiet, relaxed, year-end atmosphere is coming to an end.  After lunch, I popped by my in-laws’ place and spent some time with the nieces.

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Gosh, they are very cute and cheeky twin ‘turbo-charged engines’ who cannot sit still, or stop chattering.  They are two very happy kids enjoying their childhood, and that is most important.  Still, I cannot resist annoying the older girl by asking her to spell certain words, and have her glare at me as a response.

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Victoria Theatre & Concert Hall

 photo IMG_1063-141230-v2__zps23d79025.jpgThe VCH looks like a classy grand old dame after the refurbishment. Unlike the old interior which was dark and gloomy, the refurbished building feels very spacious and bright. But I couldn’t help but feel a little nostalgic for the old building because I spent so much time in that building when I was young, attending concerts, plays and taking the ABRSM piano exams (one of my least favorite things to do).

It is a place that I would encourage overseas visitors and friends to drop by, and if possible, to watch an orchestra performance at the concert hall, or a play at the theatre. Being our oldest performing arts centre, this building is a vital piece in our nation’s short history.

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Christmas At Starbucks

 photo IMG_0711-141214-v2__zps5fc63f0c.jpg

I like routines. Every morning, I pop into the Starbucks across the road from my office to get a Grande size hot mocha before before heading to work. I find it very comforting to sip from my cup of Starbucks as I get through the hectic work day. It sound gross but most days, I take the entire day to finish my cup of mocha. Even when it is cold, it still tastes good!

The massive and gorgeously dressed Christmas tree in my office building does not make me feel the Christmas mood as much as walking into Starbucks during the festive season and leaving with a piping hot cup of mocha in the Starbucks red Christmas cup. I love eating their danish shaped in a Christmas tree too.

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Making Jewelry With Woon Hung

I like Woon Hung’s jewelry.  They are handmade, using mostly natural materials sourced from various places in Asia, such as Korea, Indonesia and the Philippines. Her pieces are unique, and go quite easily with most of my work clothes.  

When I heard that she was conducting classes at Soon Lee over a weekend, I signed up for it.  Not that I have any serious interest in making jewelry, but I was quite happy to spend a couple of hours learning something new, and having fun while doing so.  Also, I get to bring home the two pairs of earrings that I make during class!

 photo IMG_0455-141123-v2__zps8ff7e97b.jpgThe first thing that she taught us was wire work.  Using two pairs of pliers, we practised measuring, snipping, twisting and turning the stainless steel wire into small, symmetrical hoops that connect the beads.  It was very challenging trying to shape the wire to give you tiny hoops that were of the same size and shape – I get oval hoops instead of perfectly round-shaped ones.  Making jewelry is not so easy.   

 photo IMG_0461-141123-v2__zps6696fb20.jpgAfter an hour of practice, we were ready to make our first pair of earrings.  A simple pair of one-strand dangling earrings.  Woon Hung provided us with quite a wide selection of beads, in various colors, sizes, shapes and materials.  It took me ages before I could decide on the teal-and-coral combination shown above.  

For the earrings, we used gold-plated wires which were not as strong as the stainless steel ones, so more care was required not to “over-twist’ the wires, as this will cause them to break easily.  I was quite proud of how my hoops turned out.  Got some help from Woon Hung along the way.

 photo IMG_0469-141204-v2__zps36e11bbc.jpgThe second piece was a more complicated chandelier-style earrings.  I decided on green and light purple colored beads.  By then, I was quite comfortable with shaping the hoops, and Iless obsessed with getting perfectly round-shaped circles.  So I finished making this pair in a shorter time than the first pair.  I was really pleased with the results – not too shoddy for a first attempt.  Quite pretty, I must say.  Have I worn these earrings?  Nope, my mom wanted both pairs, so I gave them to her.  I had fun and that is what’s most important!  

I follow Woon Hung on Instagram, where she shares photos of new designs, her home and travels.  Besides her jewelry, we both share a love for Korea, and can yak non-stop about that country. πŸ™‚

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