Thursday, January 31, 2008

Stuff I came home with

Although we did spend time poking around shops, and we did come home from London with our extra bags full, we didn't spend an incredible amount of money on souvenirs. With the conversion rate at about .51 US dollars to 1.00 British pounds, we were "selective".

At Covent Garden Market, we stopped at Pollock's Toy Shop and Museum. It was packed from ceiling to floor with all kinds of lovely paper toys and Punch 'n Judy sets. We purchased a few pocket sized things. The deck of cards pictured at right are 1"x2" each and can be combined in endless permutations. On each card (which connects neatly at the edges with every other card), a road runs along the seaside, punctuated by knights, farmers, castles, and craggy islands. The five year old in me finds this fascinating, and imagines no end of stories inspired by the scene that unfolds. They remind me of bedtimes when Dad made up stories for me about favorite book characters because the books themselves had been exhausted. We also picked up a few paper scenes from this shop - a miniature farm and a small Victorian neighborhood (which I can't locate, so perhaps I only think we bought it).

Books are not only heavy, but crazy expensive. So while I was sorely tempted many times, I brought home only two books. The first was from the British Museum. So clever of them to put signs in their Japanese exhibit, letting me know what was available in the museum shop! It worked, and on our way out, I picked up A Japanese Menagerie by Kawanabe Kyosai. The anthropomorphism is delightful, and I'm both impressed by the simple grace with which the animals are portrayed, and forced to laugh out loud at their antics. The cover art is part of a painting entitled "Frog School" and in the book itself, among the bats, mice, birds and cats, is picture of a frog rickshaw that I love. Kyosai manipulates the bow legged stance and froggy grimace very cleverly.

Did I say two books? I meant three. Funny, how they multiply when you're not looking. Two cookbooks followed me home. Both were found at discount bookstores, to the relief of my wallet. Our first meal "out" in London was at a noodle chain called Wagamama's. After a cold wander along the Thames, we had a fantastic hot lunch there. The noodles and other ingredients are fresher than fresh, and can be ordered in soups, grilled, with sauce... you name it. When I saw the cookbook for cheap, I snatched it up.

It's not hard to guess that the second book was about pie. When I saw the cover, I chuckled to myself. Tarts with Tops On was just too delicious in name and content to leave behind. My sense of humor was seconded by the bookseller who said lightly "And if you turn the book upside down they'd be tarts with NO tops, now wouldn't they?". The author, Tamasin Day-Lewis, writes her lists of ingredients much like I cook, with "generous handfuls" of things, "yesterday's gravy" and recommendations that "your butcher will do this for you if you ask nicely" and that a particular brand of dry cider "is a killer". I can't wait to try the recipe for Apple Hat and Forfar Bridies.

Portobello Road was good for a shoulder bag and a pair of earrings (which I purchased twice, since I was brilliant enough to lose one of the first pair within a day). I came away from Camden Locks with a small black leather pig with two buttons for nostrils. He is quintessential Camden - punk/goth style and slightly off the wall. Borough Market yielded lovely foodstuffs, much of which I couldn't possibly get back to the states in one piece. I'll post more about that particular visit later, because it's food and I could go on and on about it. I did find yarn... can't remember where now, but we were in a courtyard with some lovely vintage shops. I saw diner style china on the shelves that was exactly the pattern my mother has at camp! (That kind of thing happened much more often than expected.) Sadly, I left behind a red tea set with white polka dots and some electrically pastel and tinselly vintage christmas decorations, for the best probably.

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