16 December 2011

2011: over and out

Merry Christmas and a happy Hogmanay everyone. Here's to a wonderful 2012... SlĂ inte.

door decorations courtesy of the tutorial by Stitch & Purl

the Boss has been a-decorating

tapestry stockings designed by great granny each year, the trusty marimekko teatowel advent calendar, and our perennially tasteless tree

great granny's bunting, i vaguely remember a chair upholstered in this '80s chintz
peace, love and matryoshka

08 December 2011

word of the day: bokeh

I keep reading this word: bokeh. It means nothing to me and I don't even know how to pronounce it. I see that people often use it when they're praising a nature photograph ("that bokeh is stunning!")... maybe it's some kind of foliage plant? And then Darcy at my3boybarians launched a Holiday bokeh party. Hmm, okay, probably not foliage then. So, for anyone else in the dark, here's what wiki says:
In photography, bokeh is the blur, or the aesthetic quality of the blur, in out-of-focus areas of an image, or "the way the lens renders out-of-focus points of light"... /... Bokeh occurs for parts of the scene that lie outside the depth of field. Photographers sometimes deliberately use a shallow focus technique to create images with prominent out-of-focus regions
Okaaaay, I think I'm with you. But take it slowly, I'm a novice. Oh, and apparently, you pronounce it either like a "bow-kay" of flowers or like a questionable Scottish heave (a boke eh?).

So I got my camera out yesterday to try and learn about bokeh. My aim was to try and make some appropriately tropical Christmas pictures if possible. I tried for some bokeh caused (at least in part) by the brightness of the sun (as opposed to lights/candles), and I also aimed to capture some uniquely contrasting hot weather aspects of Christmas (eg strelizia against shopping mall window backdrop... still working on that one). After more than 100 weird attempts, I think I got some bokeh.

my coffee table: long-distance cards and sun-bathing baubles
ice creams all round while out to see the Christmas lights - not a scarf or a mince pie in sight

So there you go, new word for the day: bokeh. I'm going to have to keep working on it (obviously!).

And if like me, you're totally clueless, I've distilled some of the tutorials I've read into the following:
  • set your aperture as wide open as it'll go
  • focus on a relatively close up object
  • make sure there's something all a-sparkle and a-glitter in the distance
  • repeat at least a hundred times on random varying settings to see what comes out nice
  • acknowledge that it's likely much more complicated than this to get a great shot, but accept that it'll do for now, and friendly peeps might leave me more hints and tips below...
Go over to Darcy's amazing website on December the 8th to see how the real pros do holiday bokeh - I just know it's going to be STUNNING.
holiday lights bokeh party my3boybarians.com

07 December 2011


At this critical point in the year, I am in uncharacteristic meltdown. Some relatives arrived rather by accident (long story). With every minute that passes I get the feeling that we're realising how utterly baffled we all are by one another, as we travel a well-worn path to cranky anarchy. Our typical day follows this pattern.
me (searching for common ground): did you know black is black?
them: black is black you say? Really? I've never considered it before, but let me tell you categorically, from a very confident point of view that actually, I think you'll find it's white
rest of day: debate the bleeding obvious
them: did you read in "the paper" that two plus two equals five these days?
me: erm... I'm no expert but I'd take that with a pinch of salt if I was you
rest of day: debate the bleeding obvious
It gets old. We all get chippy. It's been this way as long as I can remember. So the two weeks leading up to our flight home for Christmas won't be filled with mince pies, secret wrapping and smiles in soft-focus. They'll be filled with, well, that stuff up there.

I haven't had much time to knit, but I've finished the cap sleeved vest for my little one, and started I don't know how she does it by Allison Pearson. The vest is cute, but isn't going to last five minutes in the unstretchy string-wool. The book is easy to read but I don't buy into it, the central character is not realistic in any sense. Not necessarily a problem in fiction, except if you're trying to win the hearts and minds of your female readership by virtue of being a realistic empathy figure. I could go on and on, but I have living, breathing people to bore in the very same apartment as me.

I guess, reluctantly, this might have to be it for Yarn Along 2011... the highs and lows of a family Christmas spanning two continents, three weeks and eight time zones awaits. If you need to know where I am, I'll be in the bathroom with my forehead against the mirror glass.

Linking in with the Yarn Alongers for the last time this year. They're an awful nice lot.

02 December 2011

food bloggers unplugged!

Lovely Shu Han tagged me in this food bloggers unplugged thingummy, which is kind of annoying actually, because she's one of my favourite food bloggers and I would definitely have tagged her back given the chance. Go and see her site if you need some tropical spicy food in your life (and who doesn't?). Anyhoo, this is the first time I've done something like this, so here goes... (bearing in mind that I don't consider myself a food blogger, I just happen to eat rather a lot, so food has found itself being one of my main topics of conversation).

1. What, or who, inspired you to start a blog?
A few things.
  • feeling a need to document our Expat adventure while fully aware that I cannot stick with a written diary for more than two weeks
  • my friend at PDNFTA who told me it was fun
  • smart-arsed vanity and a liking for words
  • the "opt-in" social networking option as opposed to the people-I-knew-at-school-and-didn't-much-care-for-then-and-haven't-seen-for-twenty-years-ramming-it-down-yer-neck "opt-out" variety. If you know what I mean.
2. Who is your foodie inspiration?
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall wins hands down. Man's a genius.

3. Your greasiest, batter-splattered food/drink book is?
A plastic lever-arch file containing all my clippings and notes that I'm in the (long drawn-out) process of sorting out. I use it as much as all my other cookbooks put together.

4. Tell us about the best thing you have eaten in another country, where was it, what was it?
A bowl of noodles in Kyoto last Christmas (near the corner of the road that leads up to Kiyumizu-dera Temple). The restaurant (whose name I didn't even know at the time, since it wasn't written in English) had one long table, about a dozen seats, and about six items on the menu. I had udon in soup with wild greens and two pieces of inari sushi. It was sublime. 

5. Another food blogger's table you'd like to eat at?
Easy one, Dr Leslie Tay of ieatishootipost is a legend in our household. He guides our culinary journey through what must be the most complex and extraordinary foodie country in the world. I'd ask him to give me a roti prata-making lesson, and then I'd ask him approximately three gazillion other questions about Singaporean food.

6. What is the one kitchen gadget you would ask Santa for this year (money no object of course)?
I'd do (almost) anything for a Kitchenaid countertop mixer. But I'd settle for a Dualit hand mixer. I've heard tell of a mysterious and marvellous new invention recently too - an induction hob with a hollowed out area for your wok - GENIUS! I think I would spend a lot of time stroking it.

7. Who taught you how to cook?
The Guardian/Observer newspaper columns circa 2000-2010. Possibly my Mum instilled a few basic skills before that.

8. I'm coming to you for dinner, what is your signature dish?
In Singapore, nothing. We're going out because you'd be crazy to want to eat at home. In Scotland, I'd probably make you green masala chicken and stuffed peppers (recipes from the Guardian columns by Vicky Bhogal who is amazeballs). With a bit of dhal.

9. What is your guilty food pleasure?
I could probably eat my own body weight in marshmallows.

10. Reveal something about yourself that others would be surprised to learn?
I can't poach an egg to save my life. I don't drive on principle... and because I'm really crap at it. I've done many things to earn an honest wage, from busking to root canal therapy. One of the most painful things I've ever done was, many years ago, to spend a day dressed as a maiko (apprentice geisha). Those girls are hard as nails.

And now, to tag 5 others!
Okay, apologies to these here listed if they've already taken part in this event (or decided to pass on it - that's okay too). Here are some food bloggers I really like:
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