Browsing Tag



gleePEEPS collection by Polkaros

gleepeeps pouffes

gleepeeps pouffes

As soon as I laid my eyes on the totem made of gleePEEPS pouffes, I was hooked. I want the gleePEEPS pouffes and character bolster cushions to become my son’s friends. They could join him in his bedroom and be invited in my living room from time to time.

gleePEEPS are the creations of Singapore-born lifestyle product designer Ros Lee. She lives and works in Japan since 2005.

chapstick holder

Ros sells some of her creations at her online store, Polkaros. Another fun product that Ros made is her cute animal Chapstick holders. She offered free shipping worldwide! I only wish that they were clip-ons.

+ photos: Works by Polkaros
+ Chapstick holder $15 USD at Polkaros



Forest Spoon by Nendo

forest spoon by nendo

forest spoon by nendo

I am in awe with this adorable bird on a tree spoon. The Japanese design studio Nendo made a spoon that is as fun to look at it is to use for the curry chain restaurant Coco Ichibanya‘s annual ‘Grandmother Curry’ promotion, in which 100,000 lucky customers could win curry spoons through a lottery.

When you bundle several spoons, it creates a landscape. I wish I was visiting Japan to have a chance to win mine.

+ Forest Spoon by Nendo – photos by Masayuki Hayashi
+ via Snow magazine and MoCo Loco


Souvenir of Tokyo Dinnerware by Michael Marriott

souvenir of tokyo dinnerware designed by michael marriott for trico

souvenir of tokyo dinnerware designed by michael marriott for trico

One thing that I like about dinnerware is that their design can be timeless. Take for example, the “Souvenir of Tokyo” dinnerware collection. In 1999,  Michael Marriott designed a collection of standard hotel porcelain, with screen printed graphics. If the dinnerware looks great on an after a meal picture, imagine how sleek if can be before.

+ Souvenir of Tokyo at Trico ¥840 to ¥2,100 (approx. $9 to $24)
+ photo: Michael Marriott


Molecule Dish to Serve Condiments

molecule dish designed by voonwong & bensonsaw :: serving bowls

molecule dish designed by voonwong & bensonsaw :: serving bowls

When I went to Japan, almost every meal was presented with several condiments served in tiny bowls. But there is no need to eat Japanese food to use the Molecule dish at a dinner or a cocktail party. I saw that the small and medium sizes are both on sale at Merchant4. This handmade bone china server dish is from the Setcast collection that I introduced before.

+ Molecule dish by voonwong & bensonsaw on sale at $48 for the small dish, $56 for the medium


Souvenirs from Japan

apica notebook with my furoshiki cloths bought in japan

apica notebook with my furoshiki cloths bought in japan

I needed new books to manage my projects when I remembered the index of the Apica notebook. I saw people using them on my trip to Japan.

Luckily for me, I can find them in Montreal at Papeterie Nota Bene, a fine stationery store. It is my place for notebooks. I opted for the Apica 6B5, a 50-sheet notebook. I will use it to keep track on what happens at meetings. There is a spot on the right corner of every page designed to write the date.

apica notebook index

The index page enables you to quickly find what inside your notebook. I love the Japanese efficiency.

The small Apica 5B4 is perfect to carry on my purse. I always keep a small notebook with me to write ideas while I’m on the go. I also use my iPhone to take notes but nothing beats the fast pace of a pen and paper.

Japanese Paper and Textiles

I styled the picture with my collection of furoshiki cloths. I loved them. Some were gifts that I received from a Japanese guy that we met. One was used by the shop Aritsugu to wrap my kitchen knifes. And I bought the rest at a textile shop. I wish I bought the modern pattern furoshiki cloths I saw at the Edo-Tokyo museum.


Modern Japanese Furniture at Idée

modern japanese dining furniture at idee

modern japanese home design at idee

One thing that struck me while visiting Japan is the similarities between modern Japanese design and Danish design, and by extension, mid-century modern design. Once you pass the similarities, you can appreciate that the design is also unique. I love it and would like to furnish my home with many pieces that I spotted at Idée.

modern japanese dining furniture at idee

I love their dining tables. And if you live in a small places, the love-it chairs are versatile enough to move from the dining table to the living room.

makeup dresser and umbrella stand :: japanese home decor at idee

Founded in 1975, Idée is now a subsidiary of Muji, another home design retail chain which operates a few stores in New York. You will find furniture and home accessories. Look at the original design of the umbrella stand. But the piece I wish I could have brought home is the Anton brown, white ash makeup dresser. It delivers on look and function. I had several makeup desks; so I know what to look for in a makeup dresser. This one fits my criteria. Although the unit is small, the 4 drawers were built to hold what a girl needs to style her hair and face.

+ Love-it chairs 81,900 yens ($883 USD approx.)
+ ARC dining table 165,900 yens ($1790 USD approx.)
+ Idée online store – only for Japan


Why Osprey Meridian 22 is the Ideal Travel Pack?

osprey meridian 22 inch / 60L convertible pack on wheels

osprey meridian 22 inch / 60L convertible pack on wheels

For our trip to Japan, my husband and I decided that the best option would be to each have our own a convertible, wheeled carry-on luggage. We always travel with a small suitcase on wheels. Many people suggested that a backpack may be useful for some part of our trip. Obviously, I am not the backpack type. Since comfort is essential for us, we gave in to their suggestion and started looking for the ultimate luggage solution. We found the best of both worlds with the Osprey Meridian 22.

Background about traveling in Japan

Trains are the most effective way to travel within Japan. Since we plan to visit many destinations, we carefully looked at the train capacity. We learned that the overhead on the Japanese train system, even on their Green cars (the first-class), are smaller than the overhead bins on US airplanes. Plus, if your hotel is not on a JR line (ours were), you have to know that the subway stations in Tokyo and other cities are way deeper on the ground than the train (JR line). And many subway stations only have regular stairs; which means no elevator, no escalator to go up to 5 floors of stairs.

In general, the hotel rooms over Japan are much smaller than what we are used to in North America. It compares to small hotel rooms that are frequent in France. Therefore, the smaller your luggage, the better you will feel during your trip.

Why we Selected the Osprey Meridian

The luggage is lightweight (8 pounds, 11 oz.). The handle are comfy and the big rugged wheels ride well on lots of surface. The pack is in fact two bags: the main suitcase on wheels and a removable day pack.

I found that it is easy to pack your stuff into the different sections. You can fit a good amount of clothes. I was able to fit enough clothes for my 3-week vacation; I only had to hand wash a few items during my trip. The construction is robust. We packed it to the fullest in the middle of our trip and we did not feel that it would break. Plus, Osprey provides a no-hassle, lifetime guarantee.

The removable day pack has a padded section where you can secure a 15″ laptop, that I plan to use on shorter trip. For Japan, I filled my day pack with my shoes, beauty products, makeup and a space saver bag dedicated to my laundry. My husband used his day pack during the day to carry our camera equipment, sweaters or light coats.

If you remove the day pack, the main luggage may comply with some US airlines carry-on luggage size limits. As far as I know, it slightly exceeds the maximum specifications of Air Canada or Porter Airlines. While shopping for new luggage, I found out that most small suitcases do not comply with carry-on luggage size limits. We bought one that comply to bring back souvenirs and I can tell you that most people bring a bigger one. So maybe we can get away with bringing it on the plane.

How did it work in Japan

Because of our wise choice of hotels, we never had to use the backpack feature. The complete bag fits inside the overhead rail on a few local trains but not on all trains. We usually left the day pack on and put our suitcase behind the last seat rows on most of the trains, as it was simpler for us. Since green cars are not full and we often went to cities not typical for foreigner tourists, we always get a place to put our luggage.

A nice feature of the Osprey travel wheels collection is the accessory pocket where you put the liquid bag you need to pass through the airport security. This way, you have an easy access to it. Make sure to insert the liquid bag inside the accessory pocket before you fill up the inside of your pack to the maximum capacity.

I like the Osprey Meridian so much that it has become my number one luggage. I plan to use it instead of my green Delsey Carry-On Expandable Trolley.

Osprey Meridian 22 Inch/60L Pack $298.95 USD at
+ Product details on Osprey Web site


My Momo Dinnerware by Marukatsu

momo plates, trays and cups by marukatsu

momo plates, trays and cups by marukatsu

I could not visit Japan without buying some tableware. I resisted many items since the way Japanese food presentation is quite different than how we eat as Westerners. In Japan, they use tons of bowls, from medium size to the tiniest bowls, in every meal. I opted instead for plates that I know I will use over and over. I plan to use the white cup and its tray for breakfast or to serve a sweet treat with our tea. I paired the cup with a black salad plate to fashion a breakfast set for 2.

Then, I bought the black and the white L-shape plates and a few rectangular plates for serving appetizers when we entertain.

ta-ta-la bikoku dish by marukatsu

My husband, who does not share my passion for tableware, provided good advice on what would be practical at home. The only thing I regret that I did not buy is a medium size ta-ta-la Kikoku dish. My plates and cups are in the dishwasher as I am writing this post. Now, I just need to find how I can fit them inside my already full kitchen cabinets.

Kappabashi district

Marukatsu is located in the Kappabashi district of Tokyo, which is next to the Asakusa district. Kappabashi has become a hot tourist spot.  This is the restaurant supply shopping street where you can find anything you need to open a restaurant. For my friends living in Montreal, think about Distribution Alimentaire Aubut‎‎ but multiply it to a long street of shops and add restaurant furniture and decorative items. Kappabashi is heaven for someone who likes to entertain at home. I bought two bags of individual plastic bottles to serve sauce or vinaigrette, including a bag of pig bottles. They will bring a cater look to my food presentation.

+ photos: Momo by Marukatsu


Crispy Sandwich by Häagen-Daz

strawberry crispy sandwich by Haagen-Dazs

strawberry crispy sandwich by Haagen-Dazs

I wish that we were able to buy crispy sandwiches in North America. Unfortunately, this ice cream sandwich for adult tastes is only available in Japan (since 2001) and in Europe (since 2004).

Instead of the chocolate cookies that we are used to in North America, a crispy sandwich has an ice cream center that is covered with crunchy, thin wafers. The result is a lighter ice cream sandwich. Current flavors are strawberry ice cream and caramel ice cream with a plain wafer or vanilla ice cream with a chocolate wafer. I like the strawberry one. Another detail is that the wafer is oval.

+ Crispy Sandwich by Häagen-Daz


Smoking and societies

a bar car on the New Haven line in 1968

a bar car on the New Haven line in 1968

As I read the story on the International Herald Tribute yesterday about the probable end of the bar cars on the Metro-North Railroad line that connects Manhattan to the suburbs of Connecticut, I am amazed to see the contrast with how we approach smoking in public places today. I am so glad that our attitude changed. I cannot imagine what it must have been like in 1968 riding one of those trains.

Smoking Outside is Prohibited in Japan

smoking shed at narita airport

It is interesting to see the position of Japan towards smoking. Smoking in restaurants is allowed. Many restaurants have a “no smoking” zone, like we used to have. But in many restaurants, you can smoke at any tables. To smoke outside in most of Japan, you will need to find a designated area. Most of the time, they assign an outside spot far far away from the doors as the smoking area. The most drastic way that I saw was the outside smoking shed, not bigger than a container, that sits outside the Narita airport building in Tokyo. Ten to twelve people easily fit in those. I am glad to be a non-smoker.

Returning to the bar cars, the newspaper article written by Michael M. Grynbaum talked about the design of the bar cars over the years.

+ bar car photo: Barton Silverman for The New York Times


Nishiki Market in Kyoto

nishiki market seafood

nishiki market shop

This is a typical shopping street in Japan. What makes those special is that the street is covered. Therefore, you can shop even when it rains. In fact, that what we did a very rainy day in Kyoto last week. We went to the Nishiki market with more than one hundred shops all related to food.

The Nishiki market has been at the center at the Kyoto residents for a long, long time. It started several centuries ago with many stores that have been operated by the same families for generations.

nishiki food market in kyoto

Vendors use baskets, wood barrels, big bamboo bowls and trays to present their produce. You can recycle this idea when you set a buffet table. The key is repetition. So stick to one or two containers for the entire table.

nishiki market seafood

You find all types of shops from the ones that sells upscale food in nice packaging, sweets to the fishmonger and more exotic item like this quail egg inside an octopus head.

nishiki market exotic food

Do not worry, you find plenty of more accessible food. For lunch, you can buy ready-to-eat food from vendors like meat on skewers or grilled fish. You can also sit at a table in one of few Japanese restaurants. That is what we did. We ate at a delicious udon place.

ready to eat food - grilled fish at nishiki market in kyoto

And it is at the Nishiki market that I bought my personalized Aritsugu cooking knives.