Mango Tartlet Baking Class At Maple and Market

 photo photo2-140517-v2__zps56d8d6c0.jpgYesterday, I attended a two-hour baking class at Maple and Market to learn how to make mango tartlets.  (I have lost count of the number of classes I have attended at the bakery.)  The instructor for the mango tartlet class was Ming Kai, a full-time baker at The Bakery Chef, who teaches certain classes at Maple and Market during his off days (his own recipes btw, not his employer’s).  I also attended the affable young chap’s macaron class (pink macarons with a chocolate ganache and raspberry jam filling) the week before.  He made baking macarons so easy and do-able.  

I like the informal structure of the baking classes at Maple and Market. They are  small, relaxing and casual; the pace is just right with plenty of time for instructor demonstration and hands-on practice.  I feel like I am learning how to bake with a friend, and I don’t feel any inhibition in asking as many questions as I like.  The easygoing environment may not seem professional as compared to some of the other baking schools, but I find that adds to the charm of the classes.  

For yesterday’s class, I ordered buttermilk waffles with caramelised bananas to eat while the class was in progress (‘cos I was soooo hungry).  It was quite tricky trying to eat and write down the instructions at the same time. The baking class shares part of the bakers’ workspace in the bakery.  So while learning how to bake, you get to watch the bakers put on the finishing touches to the cakes, banter with them and enjoy the aromatic wafts of bacon cooking in maple syrup.  Participants are asked to help out with washing up the baking equipment during and at the end of the class. While this may not sit well with some people, it is quite fine with me. 

I made and brought home four mango tartlets.  We learnt how to make tart shells using the blind-bake method.  We also made pastry cream from scratch – this was used to assemble the tarts with fresh mango balls.  This is the season for mangoes.  Sweet juicy Thai honey mangoes are everywhere!  I am going to eat as much of them as possible, puree and freeze some for making mango smoothies after the season is over.

Some of the other classes that I attended at the bakery are here:

Japanese Strawberry Shortcake
Pandan Chiffon Cake + Earl Grey Chiffon Cake
Pumpkin Bread With A Pistachio-Almond Topping
Red Velvet Cupcakes With Cream Cheese Frosting Crepe Cake
Strawberry Mousse Cake In A Jar

Kyoto: Getting Our Bearings

 photo DSC_0963-140321-v2__zps0e63c60f.jpgAfter spending 5 days in Fukuoka, I took the shinkansen from JR Hakata to Kyoto where I met up with my husband, who had flown into Kansai from Singapore that morning. It was a Friday and the JR stations in Osaka (the transfer station for trains bound for Kyoto) and Kyoto were packed to the brim with people! It was only upon arrival at our hotel in Kyoto that we realized that we had run SMACK into a long public holiday weekend (the Vernal Equinox Day) in Japan. It was not the best time to be in Kyoto.

Despite the long queue for a taxi outside the JR station, I managed to hop into one fairly quickly.  We chose to stay at Hotel Mume which seemed to be located in an obscure street somewhere in Gion, given the deep frowns of the rather grumpy taxi driver when I showed him the address of our hotel in Japanese.   Muttering the address repeatedly to himself throughout the drive,  I got the impression that he did not recognise either the hotel or its address.  I was afraid that we would wound up circling the streets looking for the hotel, and eventually burning a hole in my pocket.  I whipped out my iPad, looked for the hotel’s location on Google Maps, and monitored the  path of the taxi making its way to the hotel.  Good, we were on the right track.

Hotel Mume is located in a very quiet street.  The hotel has a discreet entrance; so discreet that the taxi driver and I were standing right in front of the main door yet could not see it.  More about the hotel later.  After checking-in, we decided to find ourselves some lunch.  As it was a public holiday, quite a number of restaurants around the hotel were closed, so we ended up eating a fast-food sort of pasta in a cafe after wandering around fruitlessin in a very crowded Gion, trying to find a place to eat.  On hindsight, we were obviously looking for food in the wrong part of town.  Everyone seemed to be in Gion.  The crowded streets were filled with lovely women, elegantly clad in their kimonos with flowers tucked in their hair.  I felt like a klutz, as usual.

To avoid the crowds, we escaped to the Kamogawa, strolled along the river before crossing over to the quieter side streets along Teramachi-dori.  This street was lined with beautiful traditional wooden houses, swaying willow trees, pretty lighted street lamps and tinkling waters from the canal.  Peaceful and zen.  A completely different stage compared to the streets of Gion that we had just left behind.


Lynn’s Cakes & Coffee At Eng Kong Terrace

We were at Holland Village this morning and wanted to have a cup of coffee before heading back home in the East. I Googled for cafes in the West and two names popped up: Lynn’s Cakes & Coffee and The Necessary Provisions. And both are located at Eng Kong Terrace, a short drive away. How convenient for us.

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We went to The Necessary Provisions first, where I had a latte (which was pretty good for someone who doesn’t really like latte) and my husband had a pint of black ale from Moor Beer Company (it is never too early for beer!). I didn’t think I would ever say this about black ale: it was delicious!  

After we had our coffee and beer, we popped into Lynn’s cakes several doors away from The Necessary Provisions to check out their cakes.  I liked the look of the bakery.  With its cream walls and light wood-toned furnishings, the bakery is bright, airy and inviting, a stark contrast to the moody dark and edgy look of The Necessary Provisions. The baker, Lynn, graduated from a well-known baking academy in Belgravia, London.  Peggy Porschen?

They had several types of cakes in their display cabinet: Red Velvet Cake, Rainbow Cake, Salted Caramel Cake, Dark Chocolate Heaven and one other which I think is the Oreo Cheesecake.  We only had stomach space for only one slice of cake and there was no doubt which one I wanted.  The Rainbow Cake.  I have seen this cake on Instagram and Facebook but have never eaten it before.  The one at Lynn’s Cakes looked scrumptious, so we ordered a slice of Rainbow Cake, an expresso and a cup of matcha latte.  

I have no idea what possessed me to order the matcha latte.  I don’t even like matcha or latte very much, and a combination of the two is something that I would usually not envisage drinking. I am probably not myself today.  The crazy hot weather is messing with my mind!  The Rainbow Cake was yummy!  Light with a citrusy flavor.  As expected, I struggled with the matcha latte

The bakery also bakes wedding cakes and themed birthday cakes for children.  As I am unlikely to order either, I will settle for a slice of Rainbow Cake whenever I am in the vicinity. 



Fukuoka: Ika Sashimi At Kawataro

 photo DSC_0391-140316-v2__zps09bb17c2.jpgI ate one whole ika sashimi, with eyes, tentacles and all, for the first time at Kawataro, a well-known restaurant located in a traditional shophouse between Canal City and the yatai street.  

One order comes with two big ikas. They were fished out of the pond  in front of my table just after I placed the order. For those who are not fond of sashimi, it is squeamish to have the eyes of two big ikas looking at you from a plate.  But for ika sashimi fans, I tell you, it is heaven on a ceramic plate.  

So fresh.  So sweet.  I ate the body of the ika sashimi-style, and after I had eaten the body, the restaurant cooked the remaining cartilage and tentacles in two ways: grilled lightly with salt and fried in a tempura batter. So so so good.

 photo Kawataro-140417-v2__zps1cce739a.jpgKawataro
1-6-6 Nakasu Hakata-Ku
Fukuoka-shi Fukuoka-ken 810-0801 J

Sous Vide Short Ribs, et al.

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I am always grateful for having several friends who enjoy cooking, enjoy learning various cooking techniques, enjoy the challenge of putting together meals that are at the level of professional chefs in restaurants, and having people over to eat their food.

I like cooking but only the quick and simple dishes that I can eat bibimbap-style. I don’t have the patience to make food that requires several days to prep and cook. I need immediate gratification.

Last weekend, we were invited to dinner by SY and his wife.  Melon wrapped in jamon.  Caprese.  Sous-vide short-ribs with simmered daikon and pickled carrots in a light Japanese broth.  Osmanthus and goji berry konnyaku jelly.  Bite-size red velvet cupcakes topped with cream cheese frosting.  Food was delicious!  All we had to do was to bring a bottle of champagne and our appetites.

Jamon and short-ribs were from Foodie Market Place.

Hong Mao Wanton Noodles At Joo Chiat

 photo 1b057460-1f17-4c78-8e0c-47bda220d3b8_zpsde17383c.jpgSingapore-style dry wanton noodles with lots of chili!  My favourite sort. (Am not a fan of the Hong Kong and Malaysia versions.)

It has been a very long while since I visited this stall in the Joo Chiat neighborhood. The last time I was there, the original owner was still in the business and there was an awfully long queue due to the stall’s popularity.  The long waiting time put me off going back again.  

We dropped by the shop, which has since changed hands, for breakfast last Sunday morning.  When the original owner retired, several of her long-time customers bought over the business and recipe so that they could continue to enjoy the noodles.  It is a good story.  

This time round, I enjoyed the noodles much better than the last time I ate there.  I like the taste and texture of the noodles (which resemble Hakata ramen).  They are not the eggy sort and more importantly, does not have the ammonia (or kansu) taste that most wanton noodles have.  The sauce was tasty and  the bite-size wantons were scrumptious.  Unlike many places which serve slivers of barely visible char-siew, Hong Mao’s wanton noodles came with a generous helping of thick and tender slices of char-siew. Not the best char-siew around but good enough for a plate of wanton noodles.  All for only $3.50 a bowl.  It is a super good deal, in my view.  

I was so happy eating my plate of noodles.

Assembly Coffee At Evans Lodge

Indie cafes are popping up everywhere on our island. Most of them are seem to be doing a roaring business throughout the week, especially during the weekends, when it is nearly impossible to find a table if you don’t turn up early. 

Last Sunday, after visiting the orchid market (this takes place every first Sunday of the month) at the Botanic Gardens, we hopped over to Assembly Coffee just down the road at 26 Evans Lodge to meet our friends and catch up over  coffee. We were shown a table immediately upon arrival as the cafe was not packed. Yet.  Thank goodness!  Nothing more hateful than to have to queue for a table for coffee on a Sunday morning.

 photo AssemblyCoffee-140507-v2__zps184d7812.jpgAssembly Coffee occupies a small space in Evans Lodge, with just 7 to 8 tables seating 3 to 4 people and a long high table in the centre which can probably seat another 10 persons.  The decor is fairly nondescript, sporting the same design as many of the other indie cafes in Singapore: they either have the raw-industrial-with-exposed-lightbulbs-look or lots-of-dark-wood-look.  Assembly Coffee falls somewhere in between.  

Sometimes, I wish people would put in more thought in having a stronger personal touch in their cafes.  The same type of chairs. The same type of tables. The same lamps.  How many times have you seen cafes display a table that has been converted from a used sewing machine? So much potential for creativity untapped.

 photo photo2-140506-v2__zps6d6fd9d4.jpgWhile waiting for our friends and their baby to arrive, we ordered our coffee drinks and a salted caramel buttermilk waffle with vanilla ice cream.  My husband ordered his usual expresso.  Even though I don’t like latte (too much milk), I was intrigued by the ‘deconstructed latte‘ shown on the menu and ordered one to try.  

The deconstructed latte came in a package comprising a shot of expresso, a glass of foamed milk and a regular serving of latte.  That’s three drinks for me!  It sounds like a great option for a family with a young child – the parents could have the expresso and latte, and pass the milk to the child.  The barista explained that she wanted to let people to appreciate the components of latte by letting them have a taste of an expresso and foamed milk,  followed by the latte.  I am not quite sure that helped me change my mind about latte; I still don’t enjoy it but I appreciated the expresso shot that came with it.  

We thought that the coffee at Assembly Coffee is pretty good.  The coffee beans were roasted to create well-balanced aromatic flavors that were neither too bitter or acidic.  As for the salted caramel buttermilk waffles, they were AWESOME.  Light, fluffy and scrumptious!  We wolfed it all down very quickly.  

Assembly Coffee is one place that I would keep coming back for the coffee and buttermilk waffles. The menu contains the usual brunch fare which we may try on our subsequent visits, provided I can hold myself back from not eating an entire plate of buttermilk waffles on my own.  

We like that the cafe has an un-pretentious and comfortable atmosphere, and it is also great to see how passionate the barista (who is a very attractive, tall, slim-legged, long-haired lady) is about making coffee.  It is all written in her body language (as a friend puts it, look at how she cradles the cup so lovingly to her bosom) and it is quite a pleasure to watch her make your coffee. 

Pierrot Yarns Amikomo Lace Doily

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As a step forward in my crocheting activities, I picked up this free lace doily design from the website of Pierrot Yarns, a Japanese yarn company. The pattern is simple which is great for a beginner like me.

I made two pieces of Amikomo doilies using a 100g ball of Cotton DK in French Navy from SIRDAR and a 3.0mm hook. I think this yarn is perfect for doilies. It is not too soft or too stiff and has a nice sheen. I took approximately 3 hours to make a piece, while watching dramas on the Internet!

I am so motivated to try another pattern soon.

Kuala Lumpur’s Kin Kin Chili Pan Mee In Singapore

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I ate chili pan mee for the first time during my last pig-out trip to Kuala Lumpur in November. We ate it at the food court in the Publika mall, our last meal before heading to the airport to catch the flight home.  It was CRAZY-SPICY-GOOD.  

Ban-mian (a local handmade noodle) tossed in a fiery concoction of fried anchovies, fried shallots, dried chili flakes, poached egg and what I think is minced pork.  The dried chili flakes is something you add to the dish yourself, so you can have as much, or as little, of it depending on your preference and tolerance for spicy food.  You mix everything up together and tuck in.  The mouth-on-fire chili, the crunchy fried anchovies and the fragrant fried shallots make the dish sooooo tasty.

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I was so glad that they have opened an outlet in Singapore (at 534 Macpherson Road).  Chili pan mee fans no longer have to make a trip to KL just to satisfy their urge for this spicy noodles. 

I read that the queue at the eatery was terribly long when it first opened in March, like any typical new food fad that turns up in Singapore.   The recent crazy food fads that attracted snaking queues for quite long while were Krispy Kreme (goodness knows why) and Tim Ho Wan (a place that I still haven’t visited).  So I put off making a trip to eat chili pan mee until the craze had sort of subsided.  I went on a weekday afternoon, the outlet was packed but I managed to get a seat without having to wait in the blistering hot weather.  This is the benefit of eating out on your own.  They can always find a corner to sit you in.

Despite being in an air-conditioned eatery, I was perspiring while eating the noodles because it was so spicy-shiok!  Simple dish but soooo good.  I also ordered a bowl of their handmade fishball soup.  I am not a fan of fishballs but these handmade ones were really good.  Big, bouncy and ‘light’.  

I am craving for another bowl of chili pan mee now.  Might just pop by again tomorrow!  And I have to take better photos of the dish when I next visit.  These ones taken with my iPhone do not do the dish any justice.

Nagasaki: The Atomic Bomb Museum

 photo DSC_0693-140319-v2__zpsa9d4245c.jpg I visited the Hiroshima Atomic Bomb Museum many years ago and came out of it a snivelling mess.  The exhibits and audio-visual materials were so well put together, I walked out of the museum shuddering from the horror that took place 70 years ago.  The images of what I saw in the museum stayed in my head for quite a while.

During my recent trip to Kyushu, I made it a point to stop by the  Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum.  I wanted to learn about what happened to Nagasaki during the aftermath of the atomic bomb that was dropped on the city.  While people in my generation did not live through the Japanese occupation of Singapore during World War II, we probably grew up listening to war-time stories told to us by our grandparents.  Well, I did.  My maternal granny who looked after me when I was a child used to tell me stories of her life during that difficult period of time.  It will do for us to remember that the ordinary Japanese, and not just the people living in Japanese-occupied terrorites, also suffered greatly during the war.

These are photos of the interior of the museum, before entering the exhibit halls.  It is a beautiful modern piece of architecture, with a dome roof and curved walls.  

I rented the audio-machine which was an excellent device for talking you through the history and aftermath of the Nagasaki atomic bombing and the various exhibits in the museum.  Kokura, and not Nagasaki, was the intended target on the day the Americans decided to drop another atomic bomb on Japan.  However, the visibility of Kokura from the sky was extremely poor that day, so the Americans changed its target to Nagasaki.   

 photo DSC_0710-140319-v2__zpsdaeb2664.jpg photo DSC_0709-140319-v2__zps37ae7b54.jpgA chain of one thousand paper cranes folded by a Dutch paper artist.

 photo DSC_0700-140319-v2__zps60d3d3e0.jpg photo DSC_0689-140319-v2__zpsfd521f7a.jpg photo DSC_0690-140319-v2__zps4b1e167e.jpg photo DSC_0692-140319-v2__zps773b2b20.jpgCafe that was strangely empty.  If I wasn’t in a rush for time, I would have sat down for a cup of coffee.

 photo DSC_0702-140319-v2__zps72dee7ae.jpg photo DSC_0698-140319-v2__zps75052d79.jpgShadows on the floor that were created by the glass dome roof.

 photo DSC_0687-140319-v2__zps3b5d314e.jpgThe dome structure housing the museum is situated next to this brick building. I highly recommend visiting this museum to my friends, for the quality of the exhibits and to learn about a devastating piece of modern day history.

Manga: What Did You Eat Yesterday Vol. 1

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What did I eat yesterday? I indulged in gluttony.  I had an Egg McMuffin meal for breafast, durian ice cream for tea, and delicious zichar (seafood horfun, fried pork ribs, sambal kangkong and homemade tofu) at Por Kee in Tiong Bahru.  I am so glad that Por Kee is back in business after closing its doors for many months to refurbish the shop, and that we did not lose another good local eatery to rising rentals and labour shortages.

After reading Fumi Yoshinaga’s Antique Bakery some years back, I searched for other mangas authored by her and came across What Did You Eat Yesterday.  I have seen only three volumes being translated as English scanlations online, so I was really glad that the North American publisher, Vertical, has released Volume 1 of this manga in English.  I bought a copy of Volume 1 at Kinokuniya two weekends ago.

What Did You Eat Yesterday is about the day-to-day lives of a gay couple, Shirou Kakei, a strait-laced lawyer, and Kenji Kabuki, a hair-stylist.  The manga is part slice-of-(gay)-life and part Japanese foodporn, and revolves around the food that Shirou cooks everyday for dinner at home. Besides talking about food, the manga also tells the story of their lives together as a couple and how each relate to their family, friends and colleagues about their sexual orientation.

Unlike a typical Japanese lawyer who puts in long hours at work, Shirou chose not to work at a big law firm so that he can knock off promptly at 6pm everyday to go grocery shopping and cook dinner at home. He does wish to enslave his life to work and cooking is a way for him to de-stress and enjoy life. Admirable. I wish more people would have the same perspective. Well, I know one (straight) guy who has the same attitude, and it is refreshing to have people like that around you.  They remind you of what is truly important in life.  

While Shirou has disclosed his sexual orientation to his parents (who are quite amusing in their attempts to ‘convert’ him to being straight), he is not comfortable doing the same with his colleagues.  His slightly younger partner, Kenji, is the opposite in terms of personality and character.  Kenji has a more carefree attitude about life and is open about his orientation to everyone around him.  

Unlike Oishinbo, What Did You Eat Yesterday does not delve into the intricasies of cooking traditional Japanese food, details of ingredients, nor does it have an exciting father-son battle as a plot device, but is no less entertaining or informative to me.  The manga depicts how Shirou plans their meals around household budget, variety and nutrition, and how he goes about cooking the food.  It is sort of a loose leaf Japanese recipe book, with an ingredient list and simple cooking instructions, giving readers a general idea of what a typical Japanese homecooked meal looks like.

I am so looking forward to reading the subsequent volumes of What Did You Eat Yesterday.

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I have already tried making one Shirou Kakei recipe from the manga!  It went into a bento for my husband’s lunch on Tuesday (I tried making the Japanese character for Tuesday using edamame). Potato with minced bacon and leeks hidden under the carrots and mangetout. Not a very pretty bento but I had fun putting it together.


Nagasaki: Yosso Chawanmushi

 photo DSC_0748-140319-v2__zps77cfb7e1.jpgNagasaki is well-known for champon and Castella cake.  Unfortunately, I did not get to try either when I was there ‘cos I ran out of time and tummy space.  What I did try was the chawanmushi at Yosso, a restaurant that has been around since 1866.   My friend (a chef by profession) who had recommended Karo no Udon to me highly recommended this restaurant.  He told me that the chawanmushi is so good, he ate several bowls by himself when he visited Yosso.

I managed to find my way to Yosso quite easily, thanks to Google Maps and the portable wifi.  Yosso is a traditional restaurant and customers are required to take off their shoes and change into indoor slippers.  I like this practice even though it can be a little bothersome at times, especially when you are wearing laced-up shoes.

 photo DSC_0747-140319-v2__zps8076d4b9.jpgI was led to the dining rooms located on the second floor. I was glad that they gave me a Western style table, ‘cos I am not used to sitting down at Japanese tables.  I always feel like a clumsy oaf trying to sit down and get up gracefully, not to say the inevitable cramps that I get from sitting with my legs folded under my butt.

After perusing the English menu, I decided to order one of the chawanmushi teshokus.  As my friend warned me that the chawanmushi came in a big serving, I should be mindful not to over-order my food.  I had intended to order only a bowl of chawanmushi first, before deciding if I wanted more food.  But looking at the tempting teshokus on the tables around me, I decided to order one for myself too.  Plus a small bottle of sake.  I love drinking at lunch time – it is more fun and more indulgent than drinking at dinner.

 photo DSC_0744-140319-v2__zps9cc30f31.jpgMy teshoku came with a bowl of soboro, a bowl of chawanmushi, a slice of stewed pork belly and several side dishes containing pickles and stewed vegetables.  Despite knowing that the chawanmushi would be a fairly huge portion, I was still surprised at how big it was.  It was probably three times the size of the portion that we are used to.  Three times more to eat! 

 photo DSC_0742-140319-v2__zps5918790b.jpgThe chawanmushi was incredible, unlike any that I have tried before.  The texture was soooo silky smooth, it just slided down my throat.  Courtesy of the bonito that was used to make the broth, the flavour of the custard was very good – light and very tasty.  I savored every bit of the chawanmushi with utter delight.  I could understand why my chef-friend raved about it.   I would have ordered another bowl of chawanmushi if not for the bowl of soboro that I was obliged to eat.  

 photo DSC_0743-140319-v2__zpsbedb1897.jpg The tri-coloured soboro (basically, ground chicken over rice) looked so attractive, it was impossible for me not to order it. Ground chicken, julienned omelette and I cannot remember the item in pink – I think it is a kind of fish flakes – over rice.  The soboro was very delicious but after eating the big bowl of chawanmushi, I really struggled to finish it. I stumbled out of the restaurant, satiated from lunch and a little high from sake, happy as a bunny.  I meant to visit one of the shops selling Castella cake and buy some to eat back in the hotel, but in my slightly tipsy state, forgot all about it!  I managed to make my way to the Spectacles Bridge though.


Picking Up Crocheting

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I don’t exactly know what made me pick up crocheting again. I am guessing it has something to do with my three-week trip to Japan where I was exposed to way too many beautiful vintage-y doilies in zakka shops. I came home and felt the urge to pick up the crochet hook and learn how to make granny squares.

Last week, I popped by Golden Dragon in People’s Park Centre and bought myself several balls of yarn and a couple of crochet hooks. Oh my gawd, it has been YEARS since I last visited People’s Park. Walking around in that neighbourhood dredged up so many memories of my childhood days spent in People’s Park Complex with my mother and her friends, shopping for fabrics to make clothes.  Her clothes, not mine.  

As a kid, I could never understand why my mother refused to buy ready-made clothes from Metro or OG, and insisted on going to the dress-maker armed with fabrics from her People’s Park shopping spree. In those days, I deemed People’s Park to be such an un-cool place and resented having to spend any time there watching my mother bargain for her fabrics.

 Thirty years later, I realise that just like my mother, I also love shopping for fabrics.  (It is scary how much I resemble my mother as I grow older.)  I could have spent the entire day in Nippori, wandering in and out of the fabric shops with delight.  Heck, I could have spent half a day in Tomato happily, if not for a grumpy husband who could not fathom why he was sitting on a bench in a fabric town in Tokyo waiting for his wife, when he could be elsewhere that was more fun.  Like Omotesando.

Anyway, I digressed.  I came home from Golden Dragon and glued myself to the computer, watching crocheting tutorials on Youtube.   So here I am, halfway through crocheting a baby blanket for a friend who just had her 5th kid.  Yes, FIVE kids.  She deserves a silver medal at the National Day awards.  Instead of tea, I opted for some whiskey to keep me going.

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