Travel

Quebec

September 4th, 2013

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Last week we took a little road trip, sans bébé, to visit our friends Renaud and Gilbert. They live in paradise and are exceptional cooks so you’re all very lucky we returned. We were ready to give it all up and live the country life. It’s quite a reminder that we don’t interact with nature enough (at all?) in our hectic city life. We will have to make more of an effort to head out into nature more often, especially with our little outdoorsbaby, who collapses in a heap of despair every time we try to bring her indoors.

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Gilbert and Renaud (pictured at right chatting with John) are building their own three storey home, with a wood shop on the main floor basement and a lovely ceramics studio just off the kitchen on the second floor. Both are exceptional craftsmen and the details of their home and work show it. We’ll be featuring their studio and home in our next Mjölk volume.

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Their property is nearly self sustaining, with a large garden patch, and a beautiful river that runs through it for swimming, contemplation, clay digging or rock hunting.

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They have a cat who is a real cat. He goes outside all night long and then passes out exhausted in the morning to sleep the day away. I didn’t realize that this seat was his special place. He made do.

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The neighbour down the lane owns the whole big property, and has a donkey, three (?) dogs and about 11 cats.

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The neighbour’s guest house (barn) and house.

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The house is still under construction as you can see but it has such a nice comfortable vibe. Left over Paella made by Gilbert for lunch before we hit the road.

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On our way home we stopped in Montreal for a day. We stayed at Hotel Gault near old Montreal.

With only a day we started at Olive & Gourmande (Renaud recommended it and it was around the corner from our hotel) for some coffee and light breakfast then headed up to Jean-Talon Market.

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Feeling kind of lazy we soon found ourselves at Cafe Ellefsen. We had considered doing a feature on it for our next book but found out from the owners that they recently sold it and that it will have to change themes before the end of September. I think the owners are looking for a new location. We had some coffee and then found that it was lunch time so we ordered some Smørrebrød and poutine (when in Quebec…).

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With full bellies we walked over to the Mile End neighbourhood. I don’t think I’ve ever been over there! The last time I was in Montreal was in younger years when we went for the nightlife and slept most of the day away. Now it’s the opposite, we’re in bed by 8! Soon we’ll be sporting practical clothing and shoes and backpacks to hike the city streets (never). So I am not sure if Mile End always had things happening or if it’s a relatively newer hot spot. It has some nice design shops, restaurants, cafes and clothing shops (above was my favourite). Worth visiting the neighbourhood as it’s away from the crowds and more youthful.

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All in all a relaxing little holiday!

Sorry we’ve been so quiet lately…we hope to get back into the swing of things this fall. We hope that you all had a really nice summer, though didn’t it seem so short this year? We don’t have too much planned for the fall at Mjölk, besides restocking the showroom for the holiday season and focusing our attention on finding new Scandinavian products and the blog. Hope to see you soon!

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Souvenirs from Japan, J & J edition

June 10th, 2013

 

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A few weeks ago we shared some of the treasures we brought back for Elodie. This is our small, but lovely haul.

A beautiful ceramic jar from Zakka (sorry, I can’t find their website…zakka is used in a lot of shop names).

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A Boro or Japanese Patch work Tea bowl coaster in various indigo fabric with beautiful quilt stitching.

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Minä Perhonen socks. Yup, just socks! What a gorgeous shop though. Classic mid-century modern interior (see the website, I felt uncomfortable photographing it).

 

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We were planning on buying a Chemex so we grabbed one of these measuring sticks from Farmer’s Table (who incidentally moved locations and no longer have a cafe). We have since purchased our Chemex and have been enjoying it every morning.

 

 

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The most stunning hand towel we have ever found. It is so nice we can’t even bare to use it in our water closet, so it sits on our bench. It’s made of hand spun cotton with natural indigo dyes. The best part is, we’ll be carrying these textiles in our shop very soon!

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A wabi towel holder. It even hangs crooked. For the cottage…

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We absolutely love this stoneware oven dish. They only had three available but we’d love to pick up one more (or three more!). Everything cooks perfectly in it, and it’s ridiculously easy to clean. So far we’ve made meat pie and mac and cheese.

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Terunobu Fujimori

May 20th, 2013

 

 

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Every trip we have had to Japan has been a wonderful one, but we always fill our itinerary too much and we are embarrassed to say we rarely get the chance to visit museums, gardens, or temples during our visits. We do sometimes come across beautiful gardens and buildings by mistake (it’s not very difficult in Japan), but during our next trip we have to create a more leisurely schedule and try some touristy stuff for once.

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Having said that, through our work we had the opportunity to visit some spectacular architecture projects by one of my favorite architects Terunobu Fujimori. I guess the first time I was acquainted with Mr. Fujimori’s work was around 5 years ago when we first started to have a conversation with Peter and Christine from Studio Junction. I remember right away being smitten with his work, and enamored with his use of materials and craftsmanship. I would be even more impressed as I learned more about him, that he almost always uses amateur craftsmen for his projects, and was an architecture historian for decades before being commissioned his first project.

As luck would have it, we visited one of the handful of public architecture works by Fujimori, and his very first commission which was completed in 1991.

The Jinchokan Moriya Historical Museum.

We hope you enjoy the photos!

 

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Cedar timber peaks extend through the roof to the entrance of the museum.

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All of the metal components of the museum including the handles and hinges on the windows and doors were forged by a very famous metal worker in Kyoto.

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Of course you have to take your shoes off to enter the museum.

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A handmade window looks as if it has rain constantly trickling down.

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The interior walls and floor are a mix of mortar, straw, and mud.

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Because the walls, ceiling, and floor are the same colour there is a visual softness to the space. All of the lines are blurred.

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The collection of taxidermy represents the various sacrifices during the festivals in the region.

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The exterior cedar paneling is actually hand split log, by a master who unfortunately has since passed away. We were shown two boards, one attempted by Fujimori-san, and the other by the master and it was incredible the difference between the two. The hand split log follows the natural texture of the wood grain, as oppose to a saw which cuts straight through the wood. The texture on the wood is incredible, and the owner of the museum told us if one day they must replace the cladding they will not be able to do it with hand split logs.

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The building resonates perfectly within its surroundings.

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In other news, we are happy to say our 2nd book is going to print very soon. Please stay tuned!

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Souvenirs from Japan, Elodie edition

May 8th, 2013

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As anyone who has been away from a loved one can attest, the more you buy the more you are thinking about them, am I right? At least that’s what we told ourselves every time we bought something for Elodie. Actually in the end it seemed like we bought more than we actually did. So that’s good, at least for our wallet.

A book about a cat (we surmise). A wooden car that plays music when you move it.

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This happened. Mother / daughter hats. Couldn’t help myself.
Last year we went to see the cherry blossoms in High Park. It was about a week after Elodie was born and she was asleep in her car seat. This time proved more difficult with a toddler. It’s just so amazing how much they change in the first year. From tiny blob to fully mobile and four times the size. Elodie became more preoccupied with pushing her stroller around than looking at the blossoms.

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Hey, we went to Japan (again)!

May 6th, 2013

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A few weeks ago we headed to Japan for a whirlwind trip to gather content for volume 3 of our book and to visit with friends. First stop was a day in Kyoto. It’s kind of embarrassing but we’ve been to Kyoto twice and still haven’t visited a temple or garden. I demanded that next trip we make it a priority. But this time we had another agenda – glass artist Kazumi Tsuji traveled in to say hello and to introduce us to another artist. We have an exhibition with Kazumi on May 30th.

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A cute sweets shop, and playing ball at sunset in a back street.

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As many East coasters can relate, we were desperate for a hit of spring.

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John was obsessed with the potted trees. We wandered through Gion over to Pontocho to find some dinner. We ended up at a Japanese bbq joint where we grilled some amazing marbled beef. I am sparing the vegan/vegetarians from the obligatory gross raw meat photo. You all know what it looks like!

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After a wonderful stop in Tajimi to visit Masanobu Ando, we headed over to Matsumoto in Nagano Prefecture. We were treated to an incredible cold soba lunch, to which we realize we have never truly had soba before. Unfortunately I don’t know the name of the place but it’s renown and the outside looks like ^^

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The space is so simple and calm, just three tables. The owner, pictured, does it all.

 

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Love the plant.

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The pottery has been used for 20+ years and has a beautiful patina. It’s the kind of thing that needs special care, like hand washing, but creates such an integral experience.

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The owner made the indigo textile rug draped over the Tsuitate in the front entrance. She does it as a hobby! Next door there is a nice antique shop with plenty of indigo pieces but we didn’t have time or cash (we always forget how Japan is still quite the cash society).

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We stopped in for a coffee and cheese toast at the famous Cafe Marumo. The cafe is designed by the founder of the Satsuma-Mingei-Furniture movement, and it was the local hang out for philosopher Soetsu Yanagi, and other famous Japanese writers. The cafe opened in 1956 and is a part of a Ryokan (Japanese style Hotel), but you can just visit the cafe on its own.

3-3-10 Chuo, Matsumoto-city
8.00 – 18.00 (open 7 days a week)

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End of the cherry blossoms, but still photo worthy I guess!

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Matsumoto castle.

 

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Laboratorio

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We stopped in at a beautiful shop / cafe called Laboratorio. There is also an Arts & Science store on the first floor of the building.

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A beautiful vintage book shop.

 

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We stayed in Asama Onsen at a ryokan.  Usually we stay in the super mod ones, but this was our first classic ryokan experience. It actually took awhile to relax, though we desperately needed it. After a bath and dinner served in our room, we passed out at 8pm! The other plus was all of our meals were included, and since we usually stay at modern ryokans we got really used to the gastronomy Kaiseki experience which we weren’t enthusiastic about. Here the kaiseki was more approachable, still delicate and beautiful but everything just tasted delicious.

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By the time we returned to Tokyo I was over carrying my camera around! We met up with Masanori Oji and Taku for izakaya.

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A platter of sashimi and sea urchin. So delicious!

We’re looking forward to sharing some more photos with you this week!

 

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Stockholm part three: Finding Japan in Sweden

March 17th, 2013

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The next day we visited Japanese boutique shop Kiki, owned by husband and wife team Naoko and Nori Akechi. It’s probably strange to say one of our favourite shops in all of Stockholm is this beautiful shop carrying Japanese goods. It seems wherever we go, we can’t be too far away from Japanese handcrafts.

One aspect of the shop that blew us away was the single servings of tea in small ceramic cups that were given to each of the customers as they came in the store. During the dark cold weather here it warms the bones and allowed you to slow down your pace a little to enjoy the nice articles on hand.

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A beautiful black lacquered cedar chest with iron hardware. The bottom right is an amazing safe deposit box.

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During our visit there was an exhibition on Japanese ceramicists Tsunehisa and Keiko Gunji.

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Nori’s reflection in the mirror.

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The Nendo Illuminated by Wästberg event was an installation of lamps in various configurations ranging from planters, fruit baskets, ice-buckets, and bird cages.

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Though not directly Japanese, our CEREMONY set is inspired by the Japanese tea ceremony. Here is Eero Koivisto talking to some Swedish journalists about the tea set.

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Canadian designer Patty Johnson co-exhibited with us, this is her “Haida chair” made by Swedish furniture maker David Design. So beautiful in person!

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