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Archive for January, 2011

I snapped this picture of a sink at a pub back in May. Wikipedia tells me that there is no correlation to the slang word crap and Thomas Crapper, inventor of water closet improvements and the floating ballcock. The similarities between his name and the euphemism are completely coincidental.

Thomas Crapper and Company

I guess this is the same as someone named John Singer growing up to be a musician. Some things are just your destiny.

I’m grateful for his inventions, even if its provided him with a legacy I wouldn’t particularly want to have. I wonder if he would mind or if he’d be proud.

We seem to have very little control over these things. You have to work hard at something to achieve, but you don’t always get to choose your genius. All one can do is focus and channel  effort. In the end we have little control over our creativity. If you manage to catch opportunity and inspiration at the same time, it would just be wrong not to take it.

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For years I heard about the Wagamama chain. When we lived in the U.S., Husband told me this was a top choice for broke university student night out food in London. Wagamama is all over London, so it’s surprising that it took me this long to try it.

I understand why it’s an old standby. Wagamama is healthy and affordable. The atmosphere is casual and it is a comfortable spot for solo dining. Staff approach you at long benches or booths on the side of the restaurant.  It’s style is dining out for the masses, albeit well designed.

The dish was standard issue but the warm broth and noodles in my Saien Soba were comforting on a cold day. I left utterly stuffed.

Saien Soba: whole wheat noodles in a vegetable soup topped with fried tofu, bean sprouts, courgettes, asparagus, red onions, leeks, mushrooms, mangetout and garlic. Garnished with spring onions.

Wagamama on Urbanspoon

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Husband (did I mention Boyfriend has been upgraded?) wanted to see Ai Weiwei’s Sunflower Seed exhibit at the Tate Modern. This was an easy sell for me. I am a sucker for modern art museums.

Unilever has commissioned Ai Weiwei’s brainchild: 100 million hand crafted porcelain sunflower seeds displayed in the Turbine Hall. The colors of the concrete floor blend with the small porcelain seeds like a slight ripple in the floor’s texture continuity. As you approach you notice the individual pieces making up the whole until you eventually realize the small tiny pieces are sunflower seeds. At this point you want to pick one up and bite one, but the sunflower seeds are not real and the exhibit has been deemed non interactive for safety reasons. The dust from the porcelain is easily kicked up and can enter the lungs.

Ai Weiwei's Sunflower Seeds in the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern

A fifteen minute video shows how these pieces were handcrafted in Jingdezhen, China. You get a glimpse into the lives of the 1600 people and two and a half years that the manufacturing took place. The people are grateful for the work but I’m curious to whether they find value in the project beyond a paycheck.

This reminds me of a story someone once told me about explaining the end use of  Mardi Gras beads to Chinese factory workers. “So… you toss this at someone out of a slow moving vehicle and girls will take their tops off?”

And perhaps that’s the point – to make me consider the “Made in China” label. Or maybe it’s a statement on how all these small pieces can make up a whole. How collectively we become something we could never be as an individual. The political weaves it’s way in and out of the display. There is mention of how the sunflower seed was once a symbol of goodwill between neighbors but was adopted and altered into kitsch and propaganda by Mao Zedong during the Cultural Revolution.

Seems like a lot to say all at once.

“Did I get it all?” I asked Husband. He is standing on the bridge above the sunflower seeds looking down with awe that I haven’t seemed to muster.

Maybe I’m not suppose to be so worried about whether or not I got it right.

The exhibit is free and runs until May 2, 2011

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Molly needed to pick up twelve antique picture frames. Where should we go? The first place that springs to mind for antiques is Notting Hill, but that sounds a bit pricey. I suggest Spitalfields market. That place is bound to have a random booth full of quirky old picture frames for cheap, right?

Wrong. We went on Thursday because that was antiques day, but we were unable to locate anything suitable in her price range. Most of the frames had things like hand drawn maps from the 1800’s inside and we weren’t about to purchase them at £40 a piece only to ditch the map.

So we gave up (or rather decided to rely on the internet for this purchase) and get some lunch instead.

We stopped into Leon. I was really excited to try this place. Their model is healthy, fresh and cheap. They’ve done so well that they even have their own cookbook!

I stepped up to the counter and ordered the sweet potato falafel with aioli hot box and passed over my £6. A few minutes later I was presented with a box on a tray. Molly ordered a salad and hummus.

When we sat down I opened my box and urm, was a little disappointed. Look at it, it just seems so squished and sad.

Sweet potato falafel hot box

 

Well I suppose presentation isn’t everything. The meal tasted fine but I’m a calorie snob who would prefer great. Visible in the box is brown rice, coleslaw, sweet potato made into falafel-like shapes that were warm and mushy, and a slight drizzle of aioli.

The hummus was really nice but the flatbread was dull. The flatbread would have been really nice if it were toasted or warm.

 

Molly tucking into the hummus.

Did I catch Leon on the wrong day? Did I order the wrong thing? The food was decent, but not great. Definitely not cookbook worthy. Still, I am grateful for affordable healthy options.

We stopped into Montezuma on our way out where we were greeted with samples of peppermint dark chocolate. I’m not really big on sweets but I love dark chocolate and this was really delicious. I contained myself (mostly) but left with a bar of Sea Dog, dark chocolate with juicy lime and sea salt. I am addicted. Which is OK because it’s gluten free and vegan, right?

Image courtesy of Montezuma

Bottom Line?

  • Antique Picture Frames – Ebay.
  • Leon – Maybe, but probably not.
  • Montezuma – Oh yes.

Leon on Urbanspoon

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I woke up yesterday morning to reports that the day was going to be the absolute worst day of the year.

“Ha,” I thought, “Only in Britain would someone come up with a statistic like this.”

This third Monday in January is supposedly the day when depression is at an all time high due to weather conditions, debt level, time since Christmas, time since you failed your new year’s resolutions, low motivational levels and general ennui.

I got out of bed expecting to be depressed and in actuality I was very relieved. There’s something comforting about knowing scientifically and philosophically this is the worst it’s going to get. Life has no where to go but up!

Perhaps that’s the intended result. Very clever, indeed.

I’m really grateful that someone went through the trouble of trying to cheer me up BUT….

I’m not quite sure about this science. I mean, look at the formula I got from Wikipedia.

weather=W, debt=d, time since Christmas=T, time since failing our new year’s resolutions=Q, low motivational levels=M and the feeling of a need to take action=Na. ‘D’ is not defined, nor are units.

D isn’t defined and neither are units? Um, no. The former aerospace engineer in me wants to see a mathematical proof.

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