28 October 2011

shades of autumn: red

The beautiful blogs Bumbles & Light, Live & Love Out Loud and Project Alicia are hosting a photography challenge based around the shades of autumn. You can find out all the details by clicking on the button below.
Shades of Autumn Photo Challenge

At only 70-ish miles from the equator there's no traditional northern hemisphere change in the seasons here in Singapore. I thought this might be an interesting exercise in sharing the shades of a tropical Asian autumn; lush, vibrant and dripping with sweat colour.

Red is quite simply THE colour here. It's steeped in symbolism, enshrined in the national flag, and the country is occasionally even called "the red dot" (referring to the fact that on maps where city populations are displayed as proportionally-sized red dots, the entire country of Singapore is hidden by it's own dot). So here are some of the reds to be found in Singapore this autumn... with some pinks creeping in, I can't resist the red/pink combo.

lanterns in Chinatown

the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple

the wonderful Rochor complex

incense outside the Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple

chillies in Little India

a little corner in my favourite little corner on the whole island, Papa Palheta coffee roasting house

These last three don't exactly meet the "contain 50% of the colour of the week" rule - okay they don't meet it at all - but red is certainly the focus (and they're my favourites of the bunch!).

mid-autumn lantern in the gloaming

faded glory - not only once red, but once neon too!

look, relak lah!

See my green, yellow and orange photos from previous weeks!

p.s. I decided to go square with most of these photos, cropping in round the most interesting aspects, purely because this blogger template (with photos in a long list) doesn't seem to do a mix of landscape & portrait shots any justice. Even at the "large" size, rectangular pictures are so much smaller and have much less impact than square, while "extra large" landscapes blow the margins and looks daft. Do you know what I mean? I quite like square pictures, but sometimes the composition suffers (it would never have worked in my last photo here) so I don't want to do it all the time. While I'm loathed to start tinkering with my layout already, if anyone has any recommendations for a better blogger template (wrt displaying photos) this novice would really value any help you can give! (for example - how do you get that lovely layout with a strapline menu across the top, under the banner, thus eliminating the sidebar?)


26 October 2011

33 x 365

The bingo caller's dirty knee. It arrived, and was celebrated in style. For Yarn Along this week, I realised that the pile of books on my heaving bedside table very accurately illustrates this past week; it's a snapshot study of me turning thirty three.

1. A guide book to Hong Kong - because my husband has been working too hard and needs a break, so we're off to visit my fairy godfather in HK.

2. Nurture Shock by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman. I imagine this may have been quite controversial when it came out. The strapline is "why everything we think about raising our children is wrong", and the back cover says "what if we told you... dishonesty in children is a positive trait, arguing in front of your kids makes you a good role model, if you praise your children you risk making them fail... and it was all true?"

They point out that, in parenting, the word instinct is frequently misused. Our base human instinct is simply to nurture and protect, but exactly how we go about doing that is not instinct, rather the result of collective wisdom. The authors look at various modern parenting norms and examine the available research to see where well-intentioned received wisdom is actually having a negative impact on our children. It's really interesting. I found the chapter on the amount of sleep that kids and teens require fascinating.

3. Expat Living magazine - is not something I usually buy, but they offered me a free three month subscription after I entered a photography competition. Imagine my surprise, on receiving my first complementary copy (the day before my birthday), to find out that my photo had been printed in the magazine - a runner up in the "City" category! A big confidence boost for the coming year.

4. & 5. InDesign and Photoshop manuals. My husband bowled me over with CS5 software for my birthday. The death of our old computer a few weeks ago had felt like the final nail in the coffin of my old editorial career. My old software, which had enabled me to do some freelance work over the past five years (since having my daughter), isn't compatible with newer operating systems. It felt like a metaphor for my advancing age and diminishing skills. How could I freelance again or ever hope to get back into an office without any knowledge of up-to-date software? That's why I was disproportionately devastated when we had to replace the old computer. So CS5 was the most empowering birthday gift I could EVER have received. Perhaps I'm not completely out of the race after all? I'm determined to learn as much as I can about Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign from manuals before trying some classes. These web tutorials look super tempting. All of a sudden, the world is my oyster again.

6. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's new Veg book, another birthday gift. It's a great book, except that I don't like the random wee doodley illustrations. They look like an afterthought. But that's a minor quibble. This book is truly making me more homesick for my veg patch than ever. I'm itching to get back to it!

And so, to knitting...

My skinny stripe scarf is coming along a treat. If you'd like to know the details, read on (if not, just admire my knitting bag! An Orla Kiely for Tesco charity bag I believe. Isn't it amazingly beautiful?).

The stash that prompted this scarf comprised remnants of other projects: a 50g lump of Viola superwash merino in radioactive (the lime), about 80g of Koigu handpainted, and about 30g of Viola superwash merino in raven (the blue/black). The yarns are exactly the same texture, and knit together perfectly. Also, they cost a bloody fortune so I wanted to make something that would use up every last scrap.

It's a K1, P1 rib over 39 stitches on 3.25mm needles. Each stripe is two rows per colour, slipping the first and last stitches on the second row. This makes it appear to be stocking stitch, but it's denser, stretchier and reversible. It also lies completely flat.

By chance, the amount of radioactive + the raven = the Koigu. So the plan is to have the Koigu stripe throughout, with raven-coloured striped sections at each end, and radioactive stripes making up the main length of the scarf. When it's done I'll be able to tell you that you need 160g of merino sock yarn for a scarf of ... length. As yet it's still a mystery.

Stop by Yarn Along to see what others are making and reading this week. For now, we're off to celebrate Deepavali today. We'll join the throngs in Serangoon Road, wearing our brightest clothes, pile some banana leaves high with biryani, and my girl and I will get our matching henna tattoos. Happy festival of light!

23 October 2011

fowl play

We are eternally grateful for BBC radio on the internet. We can't get BBC telly online (trust me, I've tried everything) but radio on the iPlayer truly is our lifeline. Our current pick of the week is I've Never Seen Star Wars, a show in which gently comedic celebrities admit to four things they've never done. They proceed to do those things on the radio and mark each experience out of ten.

There appears to be some clear editorial steer on what constitutes an appropriate experience. Firstly, as the title suggests, it must be something commonplace that you would expect the most averagely urbane of people to have done. Sarah Millican using chopsticks, Kathy Burke trying her hand at life drawing, Alan Davies going for a pedicure. That sort of thing. There have been a few more extreme examples too - Giles Coren trying veganism was a particular favourite of mine. And I have a vague recollection of Nigel Havers getting a tattoo a few years ago. I say vague because the more I think about it the less likely it seems. Perhaps it was a dream borne of fevered delirium.

We frequently muse on our personal INSSWs. It's quite tricky, because we reckon the second rule is to avoid greediness. I've never been upgraded on a plane, owned a Diane von Furstenburg dress or been to Paris - but those requests just wouldn't be cricket. Mind you, since we're on the subject, if anyone could actually arrange that simultaneous hat-trick I'd be jolly grateful.

Our third rule is, when push comes to shove, it's got to be something you're actually prepared to try. For example, I've never eaten kway chap or a KFC, but I'd really rather keep it that way.

So here's my current list:
1. I've never been on a snowboard
I probably need to try this before my bones get too old, by all accounts it simply breaks your arse.
2. I've never had my eyebrows threaded
My Indian hairdresser tells me that she has everything threaded, and that having your hairline shaped into the perfect widow's peak is more painful than kidney stones - the mind boggles.
3. I've never attended a birth...
...that I wasn't fundamentally involved in. I feel cheated that my husband trumps me on this one.
4. I've never cooked a duck
Because I mean, seriously, who has?

This month, Dom's Random Recipe was to be selected by a fellow blogger and, by chance, it offered the opportunity for me to tick one item off my list. No prizes for guessing which one.

Dom paired me with the lovely Sharky Oven Gloves in Edinburgh, who randomly selected my tatty old retrolicious copy of Jamie Oliver's Naked Chef, and directed me to page 124, which was The most perfect steamed & roasted duck with honey & oyster sauce. Well, talk about culturally appropriate! I figured that it would be easy as pie to find a fresh whole duck round these parts...

Wrong again! After a couple of weeks of urban hunting, I eventually tracked down a place where I could order the elusive fowl. Since our self-imposed marrow bone random recipe challenge a couple of weeks ago, butcheries no longer intimidate me the way they once did. Unruffled, I ordered online before swanning over to the ritziest butchery I've ever seen in my life to pick up the bird, confidently masking the fact that I knew hee-haw about the massive lump of lardy quacker with my name on it.

I've learned my lesson from previous poultry purchases in Singapore: you get every bit of the bird, and rightly so I suppose. But I'm a rank amateur where heads and feet are concerned, far less flippers and bills, so I asked that fancy shmancy butcher to make sure this duck came ready to roast. And it was. But just in case I changed my mind, they included all the extras in a wee (transparent) baggie and the body still had a generous length of neck attached. This random recipe project is a challenge in more ways than one.

The next problem was that our duck weighed three times as much as the genteel little Barbarys that J to the O recommended. So our cooking times were a bit of a guess. For two <1kg birds, Jamie steams them for an hour and then roasts for 40 minutes. For our single 2.7kg bird, we steamed for an hour and then roasted for an hour, turning and basting with honey and oyster sauce every 10 minutes. That seemed about right but it really is a bit of a faff.

So here's the result. Served this evening shredded, with carrot and cucumber, on wholemeal wraps with plum sauce and the mandatory Tiger beer. We feel like geniuses.

steamed and painted (with 2:1 parts oyster sauce:honey), pre-roasting

ready for some shredding!

the skin was very lovely (though could've used another 10 minutes in parts)

something very satisfying about 'build-your-own' meals

While I was wondering what to do with all the fat (and enough leftovers to feed a garrison) this popped up on a Google search: Nigel Slater's pumpkin and potatoes with duck fat and garlic. Mind you, I'm rather done with the complicated stuff for one week, so perhaps that can wait awhile. I'm going to be hard pressed to resist simply chucking some leftover duck into a bowl of noodle soup with beansprouts and greens for tomorrow night's tea.

Be sure to check in with my RR partner, Sharky Oven Gloves, and see which recipe I randomly chose for her (book number 2, page 42)!

21 October 2011

shades of autumn: orange

The beautiful blogs Bumbles & Light, Live & Love Out Loud and Project Alicia are hosting a photography challenge based around the shades of autumn. You can find out all the details by clicking on the button below.

Shades of Autumn Photo Challenge

At only 70-ish miles from the equator there's no traditional northern hemisphere change in the seasons here in Singapore. I thought this might be an interesting exercise in sharing the shades of a tropical Asian autumn; lush, vibrant and dripping with sweat colour.

So if you're after blazing fall leaves or staggering late afternoon sunsets, my response (in textbook Singlish) is simply "cannot lah". But I can confidently assume that a gazillion other Shades of Autumn contributors will well and truly scratch that itch for you, so do hop over and take a look.

Instead, here are some of the oranges to be found in Singapore this autumn (plus a few sneaky extras from 2010 - shhhhhhh - I won't tell if you don't).

mid-autumn festival lantern, Chinese Garden

a stand-up comic once riffed that Singapore's a great place, but it'll be even
better when it's finished: construction-site orange could be the national colour

these lovely flowers cover every shade of orange as they fade

huge bundles of incense for sale outside a temple

i like the black smudges on these, are they insect roadmarkings?

a colour-conscious mynah bird
matching background and beak is frightfully slimming dear heart

Confession time: the next three photos are actually from Japan at the end of 2010, but they're so fundamentally orange, I could hardly exclude them!

mount Inari, Kyoto

mount Inari, Kyoto

manhole cover, Shinagawa, Tokyo

See my green and yellow photos from previous weeks!

18 October 2011

give & take

I've had a friend from Scotland staying for the past week. She's amazing. I simply couldn't have managed the past ten twenty years without her. And at the moment, for one reason or another, she needs support.

But, naturally quite solitary, I find having guests exhausting. Is that just me? I need a day to recover before our next week of tour-guiding, catering and being consistently "good company" (by which of course I mean eating fatty street food, drinking too many cocktails and shopping). By the time November arrives - after a visit from another set of guests - I'll be done in.

Anyway, she arrived bearing gifts, including reading material that all the Brits must have been keeping a closely-guarded secret from me. Why didn't I get the memo about new(ish) magazine Mollie Makes? Putting the twee title to one side (working on the principle that I have nothing nice to say about the title I'll say almost nothing at all) this magazine is AMAZING! I love so much about it I don't know where to start, so I'll just direct you to the website. And yes, they do have an international subscription service. (phew)

It errs just on the modern side of roses-round-the-door idyllic chintzy-ness, while managing to avoid the jaded, dated style of the vast majority of newsstand knitting/crafting magazines. This really works for me. I must be a glaringly predictable marketing demographic. (But they really should've invited me on the focus group re that title. It doesn't do the publication justice.)

As well as pressies from home, my friend also gave me the gift of gushing admiration for my new piece - a simple skinny scarf based on Brooklyn Tweed's Noro (my version is designed to use up a stash of mixed and coordinating sock yarn). She likes it so much that it'll have to be a surprise gift for her when it is eventually finished. I can't wait to see how it turns out, and I know the unisex colouring and style is a perfect fit for her.

I'll be lost when she goes. So if I can just find that extra reserve of energy to give her exactly the holiday she needs and deserves, hopefully our personal balances of give and take will be in equilibrium.

Linking in with the fantastic Yarn Alongers.

14 October 2011

shades of autumn: yellow

The beautiful blogs Bumbles & Light, Live & Love Out Loud and Project Alicia are hosting a photography challenge based around the shades of autumn. You can find out all the details by clicking on the button below.

Shades of Autumn Photo Challenge

At only 70-ish miles from the equator there's no traditional northern hemisphere change in the seasons here in Singapore. I thought this might be an interesting exercise in sharing the shades of a tropical Asian autumn; lush, vibrant and dripping with sweat colour.

So here are some of the yellows to be found in Singapore this autumn. Once I'd collected all the shots together I realised that people here aren't shy about bright masonry paint! And as a group it's suddenly apparent that my first six photos are all at strange and wonky angles - I hope my cack-eyed view of life doesn't make you seasick.

my favourite yellow - the Rochor Complex has red, green and blue blocks too, but they're no match for this

shophouses in Chinatown

shophouses in Little India

the back of the Fortune Centre. Not quite the 50% yellow required but I couldn't bear to crop!

mid-autumn festival lanterns at Kampong Bugis

homemade cinnamon swirls - the taste of pure autumn regardless of the climate!

standard municipal planting (so exotic!)

waving neko

oodles of noodles

a maternal indulgence - The Boss's finger painting of Winsent WangGo's Sunflowers
(as pronounced by her divine, Singlish-speaking, American-inflected teacher!)

See my green photos from last week here!

12 October 2011

the a/w collection

A fast and furious update for Yarn Along today.

Stripe Study is at last FINISHED!

Classic bathroom mirror self-portraits coming up...

it's drapey enough to wear as a scarf...

...and big enough to wear as a shawl

1000 Autumns of Jacob de Zoet remains distinctly unfinished...

But the A/W collection is taking shape!

Linking in with the fantastic Yarn Alongers!

09 October 2011

long legs and homework

The glimpse of slightly ratty hair, the merest fleck on the bottom lip of a slack jaw. Every detail anchors this photo in a time and a place: warm milk in front of the telly after swimming.

When I saw that the Paper Mama photo challenge this week was on the theme of The Little Details, this picture immediately came to mind.

Last week, in the playground, we overheard our girl compliment a neighbour's daughter on her long legs. The leggy older child replied (with a world-weary sigh) "just wait 'til you're nine, it's all long legs and homework". What a classic and stylish summary of how it felt to be nine on that particular evening! I doubt that I could sum up the yin and the yang of our lives as succinctly.

But for The Boss, at four and a half, it's all swimming, warm milk and CBeebies. Perfect.

The Paper Mama

07 October 2011

shades of autumn: green

The beautiful blog Bumbles & Light is hosting a photography challenge based around the shades of autumn. Rebecca describes it thus:
Shades of Autumn Photo Challenge – a colorfully inspiring autumn photography challenge aimed at capturing the beautiful shades of autumn.

The Shades of Autumn Photo Challenge will run from October 7th thru November 25th and is open to everyone regardless of skill level, time commitment or camera equipment. Simply share your favorite images inspired by the autumn color of the week each Friday. Then we’ll choose a few of our favorites from the bunch and share them with you on our blogs the following Thursday.

Shades of Autumn Photo Challenge

Although Singaporeans do recognise autumn with cultural celebrations, at only 70-ish miles from the equator there's no traditional northern hemisphere change in the seasons. So I thought this might be an interesting exercise in sharing the shades of a tropical Asian autumn; lush, vibrant and dripping with sweat colour.

So here are some of the greens to be found in Singapore this autumn (and the colours haven't been pimped - the fruit and veg stalls really are eye-wateringly green - and beautifully lit!)

the temple gates

the Boss's favourite, ginseng xiao long bao (soup-filled pork dumplings)

oil barrels (by farrow & ball presumably)

gnarly 'cumbers, Little India

glossy chillies, Little India

a gorgeous shophouse, Blair Road

the view from our apartment

a rogue flower at Haw Par Villa

leaning tower of squash, Little India

grass garlands for Lord Ganesha, Little India

many shades of green, playing with my cheapo new macro filter

fallen frangipani after (another) thunderstorm

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