October 19th, 2017

Bye Bye Coco&Me.

.

For quite some time it’s been on the cards.

.

I need to round off Coco&Me and move on to pastures anew. 

.

I hope you understand. 

.

I always thought Coco&Me was gonna be going on forever but I’ve come to the decision that Coco&Me should remain essentially about my “baking/ market stall” era. It can not house the person that I am after the events in the past year and a half. It just doesn’t sit well.

.

There is a poem by Jane Hirshfield that resonated with me. So I would like to share that with you: 

.

Like Two Negative Numbers Multiplied by Rain

BY JANE HIRSHFIELD

.

Lie down, you are horizontal. 

Stand up, you are not.

.

I wanted my fate to be human.

Like a perfume 

that does not choose the direction it travels,

that cannot be straight or crooked, kept out or kept.

.

Yes, No, Or

—a day, a life, slips through them,

taking off the third skin, 

taking off the fourth.

.

And the logic of shoes becomes at last simple,

an animal question, scuffing.

.

Old shoes, old roads—

the questions keep being new ones.

Like two negative numbers multiplied by rain 

into oranges and olives.

.

Source: Poetry (September 2012)

.

The beauty of poetry is that you can reflect your thinking to it and decipher it with own interpretation. And so I would like to use this poem as the means to describe my current thinking: 

– Is it a Yes, a No, or a Or. I’ve been toying with the idea for ages. And my decision was this. I don’t want to be housed within Coco&Me any longer, instead I want to be like a perfume which flows with free will. Because staying in the ‘old’ and ‘horizontal’ can no longer sustain and still be appropriate. And all I can think about is how to shed skin and move on to find new pasture. What I want is fruition (= happiness, contentment and re-finding myself) despite the tough time I had in the past year and a half. Because I came out of it as a slightly different but definitely a stronger person. – Just “like two negative numbers multiplied by rain (turns) into oranges and olives”. 

.

Dear Coco&Me readers and supporters, it’s been an absolute pleasure to have you read my blog for so many years. The comments that you have left on here are my treasure and I will cherish it forever. Thank you so much from the bottom of my heart.

.

So what is next?

.

Well, I am totally excited to tell you that I have created a new blog to document my next chapter in life. 

.

It is called ‘Basics Of Happy’ and you can find it at www.basicsofhappy.com

.

I very much hope to see you over there! 

.

OVER AND OUT! 

.

With love, 

Tamami Haga

.

Thursday 19th October, 2017

.

June 4th, 2015

10 years at Broadway Market

fruit tart with thank you message - www.cocoandme.com - Broadway Market London E8
.
“Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour and it seems like a minute. That’s relativity.” – Albert Einstein
.
Dearest readers,
“Time” is a funny notion don’t y’think – sometimes it stretches & drags, sometimes it flies by so quick you’re left wondering where on earth it’s gone…
.
I started my stall at Broadway Market exactly 10 years ago today on Saturday 4th June in 2005. At the time I was 29 years old, my son was only 1 & a half.
.
Would I have believed you if you’d told me at the time that I’d still be doing my stall throughout my 30s?
.
During those years, I gave birth to my daughter – she is now already 7. I worked at the market when I was pregnant with her. She is a child who felt the whirls of the kitchen hand-mixer while in side my stomach. And withstood the cold in the winter as I stood behind the stall.
.
I remember that the first 6 months after her birth I took time off work.
.
<< The market organisers kept my stall space for me while I took the break, which I am grateful for. The market where I am is very considerate like this, & supports a small scale business like mine. The reason why I love Broadway Market is because it has the spirit & the soul at it’s core, & is not crazily money driven like some others. – A small-scale seller like myself would certainly not have continued for 10 years otherwise. >>
.
I still vividly remember, at the end of the first day back at the market, I held my baby daughter in my arms, & walked through the adjoining London Fields Park to join my son who was playing in the playground at the far end. It was a beautiful evening, the late summer sun was still high. I eskimo-kissed my daughter (=nose to nose rub) as we walked. She beamed back a happy smile. It was the longest I had ever been away from her since she was born, & as I eskimo-kissed, I felt the most fully charged kind of love. It mushies up my heart whenever I think back.
.
Both children never really complained about me working. They’d question it, yes, but they understand when I explain to them that the more effort in making the cakes to sell, the more money we’d have to spend on ourselves with lovely food & lovely toys (^^). My cake selling business is a simple logic to understand don’t you think? The more you try, the more reward you receive.
.
Ofcourse, I have always set a limit to how much I do ‘try’.
I have always fiercely protected this balance of family-life / work ratio. Because it’s a careful balance ~ as soon as one fares heavier, it won’t work. I’d be stressed to fit it all in & that would resonate to everyone around me. (And I’m not easy to be around when I’m stressed out! ^^) I appreciate that I can work from home (except Saturdays on the market). I have never missed school events like Sports Day & parent participation hours, & I would want to keep it that way.
.
In 10 years many many things happen. Certain memories never leave my mind. I’d like to share with you the following two events, which, even though it happened many moons ago, has stayed with me:
.
There was once a young man who worked in a nearby cafe. I never really knew him well enough, I think the longest conversation I ever had with him was 10 minutes at best. We’d just chit-chat about nothings, but both of us being Asian, we got on well. He was a troubled man though. On a sudden occasion, he ran under my stall table & cried. Alarmed & worried, I peered in under the table but he would not talk. My white table cloth drapes over the sides & it shielded him from the outside world well, so I let him be there. Except, he wailed loudly. It was mid-day, I had customer after customer buying cakes. People were confused but I just lightly shook my head & gave a concerning grin, which stopped them from asking any questions. Soon he stormed out to run to elsewhere. The following Saturday when I saw him again, he said he was okay. And ever since, he seemed just that, ‘okay’, but about a year later, he decided to end his life. I feel sorry that I didn’t act upon his cry of help, perhaps I could’ve helped him. – Now & again, I find myself suddenly thinking of him.
.
In March 2011, there was the big earthquake & tsunami in Japan. It happened on a Friday. It was 2:46pm in Japan, but was 5:46am in UK. My parents woke me up & the whole family hit the telly to fathom what was going on. We were all so shook up. But Friday being my baking day, I set to work, though half-heartedly. I had the BBC live news on all the time on my laptop & tears would uncontrollably roll down. I was baking, which seems to me such a peaceful act to do & yet images of complete disaster was repeatedly running the screen. Sandwiched between the two distinctly different realities I wondered what I could do. I would donate, yes, so I looked online but the Red Cross had not yet set a page. Probably too busy dealing with the situation on hand, I thought. So I set up a donation page myself & put up a post on this blog. It raised $3699 (around £2400). Donations up to $100 from people I did not know were coming in. I also had a collection box on the stall for over a course of several months which raised £272. Some customers would put a £20 note in to it. The generosity of everyone who donated was so overwhelming. – The day after the earthquake, I was at the market. First thing in the morning, the only other Japanese woman (from the Italian cheese stall) & I hugged & cried together.
.
Blog:
In October 2006, over a year after starting the stall, I stated writing this blog. Although I have been writing it sporadically, I have been lucky to have some people read it over the years, which I am most grateful for.
.
Moreover, several readers have made their way especially to the depths of East London to see me at the market. Recently, there was a family from Belgium who kindly said that my Paris trip report was useful. And just last Saturday, there were 2 senior ladies from the WI. (WI is Britain’s largest women’s organisation). My recipe for scones which I had published on this blog was what brought them to see me at the market! :) How happy these visits make me feel…!!!
.
Also, thanks to Mrs.C who have been reading my blog, I have been invited to Paris to do a chocolate workshop too! How special was that…!!!
.
I turned 39 over a month ago. Age never really bothered me before, I always held the stance that it is just a number, it’s actually about how “you” carry your life. A person that has confidence will shine a lot brighter & is a lot more attractive & will murk anyone’s guess of your real age. But somehow, what with 40 being around the corner & it coinciding with the 10th year at the market, I do, on this occasion, feel a little stirred to analyze my standpoint.
.
I am not sure of what’s going to happen in the future. Circumstances have changed slightly this year, which has tipped the balance slightly. Currently I am testing wether the new way of things are feasible or not.
.
I can say, the 10 years that has passed was busy but truly fulfilling. The time I spent went by quickly, but was thick & dense with many things that happened.
.
After all these years though, I am still where I started, at Broadway Market. Perhaps the only tell-tell sign that the time had passed is that my son is now tall as I am. And that the two sisters who used to come to buy cakes with their pocket money are now proper adults! Otherwise I remained the same. It just goes to show that I have been comfortably happy in what I do there.
.
I have many people to thank for making my 10 years at Broadway Market a comfortable stay. Mr.D for driving, & my parents for looking after the children. Mrs.A for starting the business with me in the first place. Broadway Market for being an easy market to be in. The customers who take their chance with their money & buy my cakes, & the loyal regulars that keep coming back, who have been my supporting spine. There are other market stall holders that I have become friends with too, without whom it would be unthinkable to keep at this for so long – especially Mrs.S who I wish was my real mother. Then of course I must thank the blog readers, especially to the ones that have been leaving amazing comments that keep me going strong!
.
You are all people who I rely on to give me great deal of support & comfort. *Thank you.*
.
Tamami xoxo

December 2nd, 2014

A day in a life of this market stall holder

.
Seven am. I always set this time.
.
That’s the time when the alarm tone from my iPhone goes off, but five hours of sleep isn’t enough (I typically finish work around 2am on Friday nights) so almost every time I struggle to wake. Every morning I hit the snooze button & sleep for ten more minutes. That ten minutes feels so prescious somehow… 
.
It is around ten past eight that we leave our kids to the grandparents & make our trip to the market. As Mr D drives, he sticks his hands out of the window & manually pulls out the radio antenna on the car roof. We start to listen to the Frank Skinner Show on Absolute Radio. The witty light hearted talk makes us smile & it’s a great way to start the day. After a while though, we think that the adverts inbetween are so frequent & obtrusive (why are radio adverts so shouty & the jingles so horrible?) that we switchover to BBC Radio Four in the meantime. I love it that there are no advert breaks on this one. Its pure solidness on this station, tackling a more serious subject matter. Sometimes we forget to go back to Absolute if the subject interests us.
.
When we do arrive at the market, around ten to nine-ish, Mr D does several rounds of carrying the large cake trays from the car to my stall while I spread the table cloth amongst other tasks. I am so happy that he’s doing this – the cakes are actually rather heavy – & coming to think of it, it would be wouldn’t it when on a typical week I use about 5kg of butter, 5kg of sugar, 4 kg of chocolate, 1.5kg of almond powder, 1.5kg of cream cheese, 1kg of cream, & amongst other bits n’ bobs.
.
By the time we arrive at my pitch, my neighbouring stall holders are already there – the French cheese boys, Miss.K from the next stall, Mr.R the meat seller, Mr.H the honey-man, Mr.M the artist who sells his prints. We all greet with a smiley hello & whilst setting up, we touch-base with how our week’s been folding out. 
.
In the morning, Mr.M the artist bought two large tarts. Mrs.S the ladybird book seller bought another, & Ms.I, the gloves n’ bags seller followed suit with yet another large tart. Selling to fellow holders (especially in such a succession!) is a rather affirming moment, & it feels great. We all burst out in a guffawing laughter about how, having a stall near me is a curse or a blessing! Over the years, they come to me for their cake needs, & I am ever so grateful. 
.
Despite the great start to the day, my spirits started to dampen as it began to rain. The damp air melts away the icing sugar that is sifted over the fruit tart & it doesn’t look so good anymore. And, when it rains so early on in the day, I worry that people would change their mind about coming to an outdoor market like ours. 
.
Notably, in the mornings, I see the local customers out shopping before the maddening crowd descends on to the market later on in the day. They also know that they get first dibs with cake choices too, especially the large whole cakes which I only bake a limited number of. 
.
One by one, the regulars start to drop in. 
.
Always first is the shop owner who’d been purchasing a slice of ‘flourless chocolate cake’ from me the past nine years. Yes-yes, I didn’t type it wrong, nine years, & that is every single week without fail! As much as it is a ritual for her, it is a ritual for me to sell to her. 
.
The ‘flourless chocolate cake’ has its own fans. There are two more notable customers who buy whole 8 inch ones at the pace of once-every-two-weeks. I’m guessing these men have also been purchasing like this for the past four years or so? – One of them, a man who, I guess is slightly younger than my dad, drops by. This week is the ‘no purchase’ week. Regardless, he stops by & makes a point of saying hello to me which I appreciate. The subject we talk about is always sports & fitness. The man is a rigourous excerciser and goes to those super tough spinning classes (fitness-cycling to pumpy music) too. When we talk, he gives me great advice on my fitness quests & how to stay motivated. 

The carrot cake couple is next. It’s always a slice or two of carrot cake for them. Although once, they took a whole one all-the-way to Italy! In their hand-luggage, being careful to keep it upright. :)
I joked “hello stranger!” to them with a cheeky wink as I hadn’t seen them for a while. It happens they were on holiday! Lucky them…! 
.
After that, it’s Mr.Xmas, who is so tall that he has to crouch slightly to peer through the bunting that is hung on my stall. Why’s he called Mr.Xmas? It’s because he is the only customer who gives me a Christmas card! Two years in a row now! What a sweet guy. – Almost every week he drops by. I used to ask “The usual?” which are two fruit tarts, but now, after 3 years (?) of the same selection, he also buys a slice of carrot cake.
.
As I was cutting a whole chocolate cake in to slices for the biker who wanted to fit it in to two tupperwares, a lovely blog reader Mrs.R dropped by too. Her opening line to me was “I came from Manchester to this market to see you!”. Woooooowza! Thank you!!! Afterwards, my stall neighbours all clammer to find out. They simply can’t believe how a small-scale cake-seller like myself can receive visitors coming from all over the place, & to be honest, me too, it’s such a wonderful wonder.  
.
Around four pm, it starts to get dark & the kebab shop opposite turn their shop sign lighting on. It’s using strip lights so it gives off a bluish white hue. The cheese stall behind me has their own lighting using tungsten light bulbs, & it’s a warm yellow hue. Both sources of lighting shed enough brightness on to my stall, & standing between the two is sufficient to see me through until the 5pm closing time, by which time it is completely dark.
.
Pretty much bang on four thirty pm, I consider an end-of-day sale depending on how much cakes/ truffles I have left. I would obviously like to say to you that I sell out every single week but the truth is, some weeks are great & some weeks not. That is the name of the game. It could be that the weather was not great, or that it is a week before people’s payday.
– Having a sale brings a different type of crowd. And a crowd it is at times! It’s a speed-talk of “Yes, who’s next please?! Yes, you’ll be next.” as people clammer in front of the stall. Psychology seems to go that if there’s a crowd, it is more desirable. The people attract more people.
.
By five pm, I have packed up & it is leaving time. If I have any cake bits left, I give them to nearby stall holders. Mr.R the meat seller gives me steaks in return & Ms.V from the fish stall gives me beautiful salmon. The cheese boys give me good discounts in their shop too, so in a way, it’s not all wasted. 
.
Mr.D comes to collect me, sometimes with the children. They all help with carrying the bags to the car. And in the car, we talk catch-up with how our day had been. How the kids did at the Japanese Saturday School, how Mr.D did with his swimming & how I did at the market. I tell them about special blog visitors, & about some friends if they have visited. 
.
If there is no Arsenal match on, we manage to get home before six. But no rest for the wicked as one says (but what have I done?), & I get back in to the kitchen to cook dinner. Saturday night’s menu is often Mr.R or Ms.V’s exchanged goods, with Japanese rice & a few veggies on the side. 
.
For the rest of the evening, I just plonk myself on the sofa like a sack of potato. Full from dinner, in the comfort of home, with no more immediate duties to do, I finally relax. I desperately mean to stay awake & make use of the time, like watch a film for once, or read an article I’ve been meaning to read, but it’s not ever like that. Given a chance, my body says sleep! & so I end up napping on the sofa… After a while, I make my way upstairs to bed. On my way though, I pass the kitchen & I remembered that I bought a jar of English honey from Mr.H. It’s the same brand as the spoonful he kindly gave me when I was suffering from a cold the other week. – With a sleepy mind, I think to myself ‘tomorrow morning I will have honey on toast’.
.

 

February 26th, 2014

Last Christmas

www.cocoandme.com_Nuage & Caramel baked selection box - Coco & Me - Coco&Me - blog - marshmellows - cookies - sable - biscuits - gift - Christmas

(Nuage & Caramel‘s gift box full of baked goodies! Beautifully packaged. The logo on the box was silk-screen printed.)

.

A couple of days after Christmas last year, Miss C from Lyon, France sent me the most loveliest of email!

.

“… I used to read your blog regularly back in the days and then I decided to change occupation. I went to pastry school and then created my own pastry business… I first heard about you through a series of photos that were done of you working from your house (“this is naive” website* I think) and I think that unconsciously influenced my decisions on how to operate my business. I created Nuage & Caramel in Lyon, France, 2 years ago. I started working from home (and I still am) and I have the project of opening my own space in 2014…”

.

Miss C asked wether I was working at Broadway Market on the Saturday 27th of December. She had very kindly brought over for me a selection of her goods! But unfortunately, I wasn’t working on that day!! – The market itself was closed for Christmas holiday… So, I decided to pop out to meet her, like a blind-date, in the pub, for a post-Xmas festive bevvy.

.

In the pub, we chatted over our G&T. Miss C was a friendly, likeable, bubbly character. A very enthusiastic woman bursting with energy, really REALLY excited about her baking & for her pastry business. I was touched by how honest she can speak about the influences I had on her. I thought about how wonderful & amazing that my blog’s tiny presence on the world-wide-web can create a ripple that resonate in somebody’s decisions…

.

Talking about her exciting plans for her new outlet triggered an emotion in me that I can’t quite explain/ put a finger on. Was it jealousy perhaps? No, not jealousy, it’s such a negative word. So maybe it’s envy? A benign kind that is more like in a yearnful way? – In front of me sat a woman so truly enjoying every minute of her baking journey, following where her heart leads & opening her very own shop.

.

Miss C asked wether I had any exciting plans going on currently. I fumbled out an explanation that my priority number one is the children for now. I must say, after hearing her talk about her project with such enthusiasm, it desperately felt like I was using “having children” as an excuse, attaching the justification of my lack of career development on them. BUT, I’d like to think that I’m on the right track. I still stand by my firm belief that you get just one-shot at being a mother to these children, whereas for work, well, even if you should fail, you can change job & start anew, no?

.

And right now, I have a perfect “work/ family life” balance, which I am grateful for. I can be at home during the weekdays & do school-runs, go to see our child on stage at school assemblies, help out as a volunteer for the class-trip. I can see the children in action on sports day & take lots of pictures of them, capturing the moment. “Children bring joy” sounds very cheesy I know, but when the kids you love give you zillion hugs & kisses, you know that you’ve something valuable to protect that is gazillions better than any job satisfaction.

.

For those reasons, all in all, the current work-family balance suits. It’s a balance I’m super-protective about, because I know that if I tip the balance & add more work, it creates stress & dysfunction. Besides, I am fortunate to actually LOVE my work-life too. I still love baking & I still love selling direct to my customers at the market. It’s actually the best part of the job! – I also have a great band of people working near my stall too – chatting & joking around with them all day is like a cherry on top of the cake. ^^ Now…, wrap that all up, & I reckon it’s pretty good going.

.

Ofcourse, there’s the cookbook that is always left on the back-burner (I’m still slowly whittling on it though…), & I still dream of opening my very own outlet too. That dream has never really gone away, it’s perhaps the ultimate goal for me. – I joked to Miss.C that perhaps I’d do it when my kids are old enough, like 18. My youngest is almost 6, so…, (finger-counting…) yeah, maybe when I’m like, 50?! Lol… Lol… Lol… … “Watch this space…!?”

.

www.cocoandme.com_Nuage & Caramel baked selection box - Coco & Me - Coco&Me - blog - homemade handmade marshmellows in a cloud shape - cookies - sable - biscuits - gift - Christmas

(Image courtesy of Miss C from Nuage & Caramel. – The handmade marshmellows in a cloud shape!!!! Cuteness!!!!)

.

* The article on this is naive” is unfortunately gone now…!? But here’s my blog post about it on here

 

August 29th, 2013

Join me at the Charity Afternoon Tea

.

Hello~!!!! How are you doing this summer?? :) Is it hot where you live?

.
Here in UK, we’ve been blessed with great weather pretty much all round! :) For example, around the end of July there was a long stretch of heat-wave too! I don’t mind a bit of hot weather but this heat-wave totally baked me in the kitchen on my weekly bake-a-thons. (Baker being baked on bake-a-thon. Possible tongue twister like Peter Piper?! Lol. sorry… feeling silly obviously.) And as for selling cakes in the hot heat, oh-my-god, standing under the plastic tarpaulin roof at my market stall was soooo unbearable. It was like being in a green house!!
.
This prolonged hot weather is super unusual in UK weather standards if you ask me! Normally the weather takes a shine on us for about a week, then you abruptly have to wave a involuntarily bye-bye to summer & say a reluctant hello to autumn! Only…, in such summers, what is left is not a tan, but a hardly used sun-protection lotion which gets shelved to dusty oblivion. Disenchanted by the broken promise of summer, you might even imagine the bottle staring back like a Space Odyssey Monolith, ridiculing at the vain hope you’ve once had of using it up.
.
But here it is. Hot weather! After one of the wettest winters & coldest springs earlier this year, it’s certainly something to be happy about! :)
.
But enough of weather-talk! I actually wanted to let you know about the event that is coming up at the end of September which I really want to convince you to come!
.
x . . x . . x . . x . . x . . x . . x . . x . . x . . x . . x . . x . . x . . x . . x . . x
.
My dear friends F & S at The Pastry Network are organizing a Cocktail-style Champagne Afternoon Tea to raise funds* for an exceptionally wonderful charity called Make-A-Wish.
.
Make-A-Wish grants the wishes of children with life threatening medical conditions, to enrich their human experience with hope, strength & joy.
.
This charity makes me think of the famous Japanese idiom ” 病は気から” (yamai-wa-ki-kara), meaning “One’s attitude (spirit) can affect the path of an illness, for better or for worse.” When you feel sad you lose your appetite. When you smile you release endorphins which make you feel good. And when you do turn that frown upside down & have upbeat thoughts, it can physically change your body. I really believe so. 
Moreover, it is not just in physical illness, but when you’re feeling down or when you’re having a hard time, be it at work or in personal life, I faithfully think that actively living your life to make it better eventually makes for positive outlook/ outcome. People who are “trying their best” are shiny & beautiful.
.
(Got slightly off on a tangent there… sorry.)
Anyway…,
The Cocktail-style Champagne Afternoon Tea will be held at The Park Lane Hotel (nearest station is Green Park), on Monday 30th of September between 3pm to 6pm, & the ticket price is 55 pounds per person.
.
Ah yes, 55 pounds may seem a little hefty. BUT here’s what I think about this; 
– there will be an amazing TWENTY-ONE super-chefs from 19 top-notch & famous establishments at our service, making our canapés, chocolates & pastries. You’ve probably heard of them if you’re from this part of the world: Ladurée, William Curley, Wolseley, Delaunay, Koffmann’s… And I would imagine that the chefs will really go out of their way to create the most beautiful stuff, since the place will be swimming with people in the same line of business. To be honest, if you’re any sort of pastry-lover, I really think it’s going to feel like paradise has descended in to one room in Piccadilly. I mean, there’s all these other 5-star establishments such as the Dorchester, Langham & Lanesborough participating too who’re famed for their afternoon tea. Sampling pastries from them all in one time? O.m.g, it’s going to be totally unreal! It’s going to be amazing.
.
I should also add that apparently some of the chefs will be holding the trays in the room. SO, which means, we’ll get to talk to them! And on the day, there will be raffle tickets on sale too – of which some of the prizes are:
– Koffmann’s dinner voucher
– The Delaunay afternoon tea voucher
There will also be a goodie bag from Valrhona, who is one of the sponsors of the event. 
.
So come join me on the 30th to hold a bubbly in one hand & mmm… & ahhh… at beautiful food, all in the name of charidy…!! :) (There are only a limited number of tickets so please book well in advance to avoid dissapointment!)
.
x . . x . . x . . x . . x . . x . . x . . x . . x . . x . . x . . x . . x . . x . . x . . x
.
Date: Monday 30th of September
Time: 3pm to 6pm
Venue: Sheraton Park Lane Hotel, Piccadilly, London W1J 7BX
Ticket Price: £55 per person
Dress Code: Smart Casual (children under 12 years old cannot be accommodated)
To purchase tickets, please visit www.pastry-network.com
.
x . . x . . x . . x . . x . . x . . x . . x . . x . . x . . x . . x . . x . . x . . x . . x
.
*all of the proceedings go to Make-A-Wish Foundation UK.

« Previous Entries