Kensington at the Weekend

“How sweet the morning air is! See how that one little cloud floats like a pink feather from some gigantic flamingo. Now the red rim of the sun pushes itself over the London cloud-bank. It shines on a good many folk, but on none, I dare bet, who are on a stranger errand than you and I. How small we feel with our petty ambitions and strivings in the presence of the great elemental forces of Nature!”
― Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes: The Complete Novels and Stories, Volume I

My old stomping grounds look quite fetching in the spring.

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Saturday Links

“There is no time for cut-and-dried monotony. There is time for work. And time for love. That leaves no other time.”
― Coco Chanel

Kittens, this was the week my new manager came onboard. And she’s lovely! She’s also wonderfully experienced and highly knowledgeable, and I know I’m going to like working with and for her tremendously. There’s a lot of structure she can put in place to support the projects we work on and I’m really looking forward to helping and learning.

Enough gushing! It was also a massively busy week since two of our directors were out of the country and one worked a partial week, so a lot of the onboarding orientation fell to me. There were also the usual schedule changes (construction is a fickle business, and luxury construction doubly so) and a lot of late hours. All for a good cause, though. There are a lot of new projects coming up that are partially daunting since I’m having to do work that I’ve never done before, but pretty exhilarating for the same reason.

Here are your links, tell me what you’re getting up to this weekend in the comments!

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Journalism is getting weird, guys.

All joking aside…debt. Definitely debt.

Mad Men is winding down, so let’s look at some beautiful vintage ads and dream of far of destinations, shall we?

Supporting dance opportunities for girls of color, hell yes!

Just in case (h/t Katarina)

Now that Game of Thrones is back, in defense of Sansa Stark.

Derelict pubs throughout London, some with amazing historical backgrounds.

The kids, they are alright.

Pakistan Fashion Week is giving me life and I think we could all use some more embroidery.

When I get some free time (she laughed darkly to herself).

Flesh & Buns

“What a strange thing!
to be alive
beneath cherry blossoms.”
― Kobayashi Issa, Poems

Flesh & Buns, located in Covent Garden, is a restaurant based on the idea of Japanese after work socializing and partying at Izakayas. It’s a sister project to Bone Daddies, a ramen restaurant decorated with rockabilly art and old Japanese advertising artwork. Flesh & Buns takes the food to the next level by offering more complex food while rock music blasts. Sushi and AD/DC, what is not to like!

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The menu consists of mostly small plates to share (or keep for yourself, as the case may be), plus the signature “flesh and buns.” Steamed buns are constantly in production to be served along a number of kinds of meats that you can slice, dice, and shred to your heart’s content. But I get ahead of myself, because the small plates are delicious.

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We sat at the long table running down the length of the restaurant (communal dining is still all the rage), tucked in our elbows to minimize damage to our neighbors, and went to town on the goods! All the dishes are based on traditional Japanese cuisine, but with gorgeous modern and fusion twists. The grilled sweet potatoes and mixed seafood ceviche were the clear winners, as far as we’re concerned.

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The kitchen is open and just feet to my left, head chef Jo McCafferty was in command, with a pile of steaming bun baskets behind him. It’s fascinating to see a full kitchen in action, with various stations manned by specialist chefs producing the dishes and coordinating them into meals. It might be nerdy, but I like getting behind-the-scenes looks at things, and venues that open up the background to view are always fun to go to.

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Since moving to the UK, I’ve discovered a deep and abiding love for duck (which I frankly never ate much of before), so it was an easy choice to choose the duck breast for our “flesh.” The buns were brought out piping hot and Jeff did the honors of putting the bundles of flavor together.

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I know nothing about sake, but there is a lengthy selection to choose from, and for the virtuous or the disinclined toward alcohol, there are fun alternatives. And as for deserts, there are the weirdest but loveliest concoctions. I had a black sesame creme brulee, and failed utterly to take photos, while Jeff had a sundae made with tea flavored ice cream. We tend to favor solidly sweet deserts so these were a change of pace, but were unusual enough to be a lot of fun and worth a try.

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Flesh & Buns, 41 Earlham St, London WC2H 9LX

Friday Links

“This is the real secret of life — to be completely engaged with what you are doing in the here and now. And instead of calling it work, realize it is play.”
― Alan W. Watts

Another busy week and I literally worked myself sick (again) and lost my voice as of this morning. But on the whole I’m pleased with how my projects are moving along, freelance is becoming much more manageable, and the weather is gorgeous. There’s nothing to complain about! Here are your links, tell me what you’re up to this weekend.

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“Hashbrown, no filter.” And if you’re not watching Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, get educated!

Wonderful prehistoric artwork.

Food for thought. Since I stopped following most of the parts of the internet related to mormonism (affectionately referred to as the Bloggernacle), it’s been interesting to see how things that pop up in my Facebook feed, for instance, have changed. Our world is built on algorithms and information is no different. When I was immersed in one community and its conflicts, it’s news and conversations and events was practically all I saw. When I stepped away, it was eye opening to see how comparatively small that amount of information had been. And it was even more interesting to see how the algorithms of information created echo chambers. In spite of the torrential flow of data out there, unprecedented in human history, I think media has allowed us to isolate ourselves pretty easily with those with whom we already tend to agree.

Dandies forever!

Well, that’s just…horrible

I ask my eternal question when things like this happen, how did you lose this stuff?!

Development is an complicated industry.

Let’s do it, Jeff!

Synesthesia is such an interesting thing, and this artwork stemming from it is downright gorgeous.

Why not?

Nerdy things to look forward to!

Two Words: Customer Loyalty

“Buy what you don’t have yet, or what you really want, which can be mixed with what you already own. Buy only because something excites you, not just for the simple act of shopping.”
― Karl Lagerfeld

Our Easter weekend meanderings was a fascinating example of the best of shop culture that I’ve found in Britain and not found anywhere else. America might be run by consumer culture, but I’ve never lived anywhere that does shops like I’ve found here. On the other hand, I shouldn’t be surprised, Britain has been built on shopkeepers and mercantilism for centuries. But in an age of brand shopping, fast fashion, ready made everything, and general convenience being king, it’s kind of great to see how personal business can be.

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Our first stop of the day was Alexeeva and Jones, to pick up some Easter chocolate. We got to chatting with the woman assisting us, and it turns out that she was one of the founders! I expressed how much I enjoy the fun and unusual chocolates they carry and she immediately asked if I was a repeat customer, and had I been given a discount? Yes, and no respectively. She immediately whipped out her business card and wrote us a personal 10% coupon, no expiry date.

Feeling pretty pleased, we headed up to 282 Portobello Road. I have been on the hunt for a tweed jacket for months and to be frank, most off the rack stuff doesn’t fit me. I’m a petite woman with a short waist, and a definite hourglass figure, but broad ribs. It’s a tricky business finding me any clothing that fits correctly–believe in tailoring, kittens–and I’ve not had a lot of luck with jackets in general.

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As far as I’m concerned, if you’re looking for vintage clothing that focuses on classic British houses, cuts, and tailoring, Claudia is the woman you need to see. I’ve written of my unabashed enthusiasm for her before, but life and work have been so busy for months now and I haven’t had the time to visit old favorite haunts. Well, after months of looking in all the wrong places, I walked into 282, and found a 1950s jacket almost immediately that looked like it was cut to my exact frame. The sleeve length, the lapels, the fit…it’s perfect. As she was ringing us up, Claudia glanced over at us and declared, “You guys have been here before.” We had, but as a mentioned, it hadn’t been in months. I said as much but she just beamed, “I love it when people come back and find something they love.” And she gave me an instant price reduction.

Finally, on Sunday we went to Spitalfields to get a “scotch egg brownie” from Flavourtown Bakery–maker of the finest cupcakes in the city, as determined by SDS Industries. We hang out at Spitalfields regularly on the weekends and have been buying treats from Flavourtown for months. The owner recognizes us, knows our favorites, and makes recommendations. That day was no different except that we had a long chat about how they’ve started supplying two of the most famous department store foodhalls in the city, how one of their lead team members had to leave due to family reasons, and the general ups and downs they’ve experienced. In the end, we bought a box of cupcakes (along with some helpful tips on how best to freeze them so as not to glut ourselves on sugar), and got the last “secret” flavor of the week cupcake thrown in. Pro tip, like them on Facebook, fans get extra treats.

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In rapid succession, I saw how personal relationships build business. As someone who has (believe it or not, based on this post) tried to cut down on a lot of unneeded consumerism in her life, it was an insightful weekend. A woman learned I valued her product and immediately provided me a way to enjoy it more, benefiting us both. Another woman recognized me as a repeat customer who expresses enthusiasm for what she’s enthusiastic about, and helped me get something I’ve wanted for months for just a little bit less. I know I’ll be back to buy from her again, and it has nothing to do with the discount. And finally, a guy who probably enables my sweet tooth too much, and who has countless of customers across multiple markets and shops, takes time to recognize his regulars and engage with them genuinely. As a result, we make it a point to keep coming back to say hi and see how he’s doing. We inevitably come away with a treat.

It’s not just these guys either! Now that the weather is warming up, I’m shopping at markets again and I get recognized by produce stand owners, cheesemongers, and breadmakers. I’ve asked shopkeepers for advice from cloth to cuts of meat and gotten minor educations. I don’t know if it’s the tradition, the relative small size of the country, or just something in the culture, but the British do shops far better than anywhere I’ve lived, and they seem to do a better job about sustaining them as well. It is possible to build a business out of something someone is desperately passionate about here in a way I’ve not found in a lot of other places. I hope I never have to give them up.

Easter Weekend Brunching

“When you wake up in the morning, Pooh,” said Piglet at last, “what’s the first thing you say to yourself?”
“What’s for breakfast?” said Pooh. “What do you say, Piglet?”
“I say, I wonder what’s going to happen exciting today?” said Piglet.
Pooh nodded thoughtfully. “It’s the same thing,” he said.”
― A.A. Milne

A four day weekend meant that we got to get out and spend some time exploring the city with reduced crowds, since a surprising amount of the population heads elsewhere on holiday. The weather is just starting to turn to spring and daylight savings time kicked in so the light lasts long enough to get your vitamin D back on track after months of deprivation. We needed to get out, we needed to do something nice. In short, we needed brunch.

We headed to Grainger & Co. in Notting Hill, a place I’ve wanted to try for ages due to it’s reputation for Ricotta Hotcakes. Because, obviously!

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There are no reservations at this location, and there is normally a huge wait, but thanks to the holiday, we were seated in about 20 minutes. I’ve seen some tourists completely lose their cool over a wait time like that, but for plenty of Londoners that’s a breeze! You spend time talking, you gauge the menu, you chat with the people in line, you charm the staff so they provide you regular updates, you enjoy yourself. We’ve slowed our eating time since moving abroad, and it’s been much for the better.

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I geeked out irrationally over the hot chocolate, made with actual chocolate and milk that you mix together for yourself and sweeten (or not) as you see fit. The last time I had a pot made thus I was in Brussels, so it was a welcome treat to put together.

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A major joy of a long weekend is lack of makeup (minus lipstick of course) and headband you pretend are “workout chic” fashionable.

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Ricotta hotcakes, kids. Don’t just walk, run.

Pancakes as we think of them have only recently started worming their way into Britain. What they think of as pancakes is far closer to crepes in the American view, so occasionally I get a craving that typically cannot be fulfilled without substantial effort on my part (since I’ve only found buttermilk sold in a single store in hilariously small quantities). It’s bothersome, but it gives me a chance to explore when something like this comes along. These hotcakes are fluffy and light but still manage to have a slightly dense and pleasantly chewy aspect to them due to the ricotta. They are incredibly filling, topped with honeycomb butter, and sing when topped with maple syrup (also not terribly find-able in London).

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Jeff went for the “Full Aussie” breakfast which, according to Jeff, is an improvement on the Full English. Either way, I can attest that the sourdough toast is amazing and I have no idea how they get their eggs looking like that but it tastes pretty darn good.

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After brunch we decided to wander Hyde Park a bit and even though some of the trees were still a bit bare…

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Others were over winter.

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But the real highlight was seeing what was in the trees! Several years ago some parakeets escaped captivity and took up residence. Today, they can be found in all the major London parks! I’m sure there’s a valid conversation to be had about invasive species, but I can’t help be be delighted to have finally glimpsed these jewel toned birds finally.