Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The start of Christmas shopping at IKEA

There's no such thing as a white Christmas where I live. Brown is more likely. Most days it will be green. Scorching hot. Then a thunderstorm. Like now. That's the formula for high levels of humidity, I tell you. Heavy and sticky. It turns you into a hog. And not a cute one.

But a few days ago, I had as close to a white Christmas as I will ever get living near the Equator. At IKEA. Where else? Every year, I do make it a point to check out their Christmas ornaments and decor because they always make me feel happy. The promise of peace, joy and good tidings to all men.

On that trip, I was lucky enough to not fall for every bauble and bling, and inflict myself with lots of painful ka-ching. I escaped almost unscathed except with a poinsettia (I can't resist red, did I tell you?) and some goodies for handmade ornaments, (which I hope to share with you next week.) 

The IKEA blue bag (it is usually called FRAKTA but I don't know why the small one says BRATTBY on the label) makes a good wrapper for the poinsettia plant, if you're planning to give away a "green" gift. The blues does make the red leaves pop up so much more. Tie a ribbon round the base to tuck the excess material and there you have it.

You could add a small card with a special message for the recipient and "care instructions" for your little bloom of a gift.

December is just a bend away. I wish you days of love, good company and lots of wise shopping.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Japan top 5

It's been 12 days since leaving Japan but I am still missing the Ohaiyo Gozaimasu's everywhere I turn, the crazy labyrinth of subway and trains, and the waterfall 'music' in the lady's room. A friend remarked when I was gushing over my trip, "You've really fallen in love with Japan, huh?" Yes, I admit. Hard.

There is so much to say about Japan but let me just list 5 of my favourite spots from my trip.

1. Nakamise Street, Tokyo
It is one of the oldest shopping areas in Tokyo, with a eye boggling array of stalls from mobile phone trinkets to kimonos to ice-cream buns, all the way leading to the Sensoji Temple. But what caught my attention were the small streets off the main thoroughfare. Definitely a quieter, less crowded area to browse, with more interesting material, and a lot less tourist souvenirs. Love the drawings on the some of the shop front grills too.

2. Gion, Kyoto
It's the most famous of geisha districts. We had an amazing time walking its streets, peeking into houses and just soaking in the elegant, traditional atmosphere. With the high concentration of traditional wooden machiya merchant houses, no wonder Gion is a hit with tourists and shutter bugs.

At first, I thought the houses were really small, judging from the slim entrances but later learnt that due to the fact that property taxes were formerly based upon street frontage, the houses were purposely built that way. A narrow front but it could extend up to twenty meters in from the street. Small mouth, big belly.

In Kyoto, you must also visit the celebrated Kiyomizudera (Pure Water Temple).