30 March 2012

project 52: details

Amazing stationery store Kikki.K wrote this great little blog post earlier in the week about finding new angles with your camera. Their examples taught me a brilliant lesson (yes, yes, photo bods, I know it's entry level but some people don't know these things 'kay?). The thing you're photographing doesn't need to be entirely in the frame, or even entirely in focus. It may be just enough to just suggest the form of an object, allowing your eyes to focus on the smaller details.

And so I thought I'd give it a go this morning for p52, "details". I'll need to practice a bit, but it was fun.

left: yawn
right: happy hazy days in the chive patch

I feel so pleased to have a "proper" camera these days, even though it's not quite the DSLR of my dreams. Manual functions are so rewarding, and auto functions are so often uniquely disappointing. I love it. If anyone's nervous of their manual functions, don't be, look what they do, even for a duffer like me.

left: "smart" settings, ISO100, auto WB, f/9.5, 1/160, couldn't force it to focus on anything but the surrounding grasses. crappy shot.
right: ISO400, daylight WB, f/4, 1/1600, manual focus. Not perfect, but a million times better, no?

UPDATE: Blogger doesn't seem to be allowing me to leave comments on any p52-ers' posts. I am looking at them and I am loving them - just sorry I can't let you know. (Anyone else having the same problem? Mind you, if you are, you probably can't leave a comment to tell me that. Hmmm.)

project 52 p52 weekly photo challenge my3boybarians.com

28 March 2012

deadlines, lines, lines

You might think that vowing never to sit exams again (early twenties) and quitting the rat race (late twenties) would rid a life of deadlines... not so, they're still there, they're just significantly more pleasurable.

and they're even colour-coordinated ;0)

I've got 48 hours before we leave for my Granny's eightieth birthday, and unfortunately I can't knit in the passenger seat, so the heat is really on with her gift. And at last I managed to get my hands on my book group's choice for this month (When God was a Rabbit by Sarah Winman) - it's the first time I can go to book group for two years, so I really should be sure to finish it. Luckily it's proving quite a quick, enjoyable read but I'm only half way through and, from the reviews I've read, I know I need to digest the second half before forming an opinion on it.

I'm feeling really quite smug about my low-pressure covetable deadlines. You can probably tell. Obviously I'm putting aside the tax problems that I have no idea how to solve, tediously urgent change of address letters, and medical waiting lists that must be joined - they'll need to wait for another day. Yarning Along with Ginny.

23 March 2012

project 52: hunger

I am defiantly, sinfully lazy. A bone-idle, work-shy sloth. But one thing is guaranteed to motivate me: hunger. Specifically, a hunger to feed people things that I've grown myself.

Only yesterday, that hunger triggered a three hour frenzy, digging over the green manure beds and generally preparing the veg patch for Spring. It also inspired the singular kind of madness known as talking to trees. Asking the apple buds if this year, their fourth since being planted, might just be the year, and begging them not to flower while there's still a threat of frost.

And at risk of sounding excessively crunchy, I admit to evangelising about veg patches being the best way to encourage a child's hunger for greens. The Boss, who like most of her ilk has never willingly eaten a salad leaf, has declared her sprouting micro cabbage leaves (sown on some damp kitchen roll and ready 10 days later) to be delicious. (Authoritative proof, sample size one.)

Luckily, that kind of physical exertion also makes me hungry, giving me an excuse to sit in the sun with a cup of tea and some Mothers' Day chocolates. Happy weekend!

project 52 p52 weekly photo challenge my3boybarians.com

21 March 2012


What an amazing day. Morning coffee with my little family at a super classy little cafe (while Mr Macaroon snuck a few hours out of the office). Gardening (which mostly involved my lying on a trampoline in the sun while the girl devised obstacle courses around me) and then a picnic next to our first tulips of the year. In this part of the world, there's only one thing you can be sure of; that it won't last. So we're making the most of the sunshine while we can.

daffodils from my parents' garden

The amazing weather and sense of being home has had a rejuvenating effect in all sorts of ways, not least that I'm making something again for the first time in months. My Grandmother, who taught me how to knit as a child, turns eighty in a few days time, and this quick and rewarding Different Lines shawl is the perfect project to add to her gift basket. I'm using some Hand Maiden Casbah, which is incredibly soft and easy to work with, but I'm disappointed with my choice of colours, they're not as bright as I thought in the shop, and there's not enough contrast for the stripes. But I won't let that put me off, things always look better when they're finished, and like I said, I'm working to an important deadline.

I've also got cracking (at last) on my New Year resolution, and have loved every page of Persuasion by Jane Austen. It's amazing! When I got to page 80, after five exhausting jet-lagged days staying with my (more than slightly eccentric) extended family, I empathised with Anne when she: "...admired again the sort of necessity which the family-habits seemed to produce, of every thing being to be communicated, and every thing being to be done together, however undesired and inconvenient."

I managed to fold over the corner (for future therapeutic moments) draw a deep breath, and return to the fray rejuvenated, secure in the knowledge that even Jane Austin would understand exactly how I felt!

Yarning along for the first time in months. I've sorely missed taking part which has, in no small way, helped nudge me out of the funk. 

19 March 2012

getting by with unearthed treasures

Most of our belongings are rolling on the high seas. Sitting squarely on the luxurious cushion of insurance, I've been wondering how bad it would really be if the container slipped overboard somewhere in the Bay of Bengal, or was commandeered by actual pirates. (Naturally I mean friendly pirates, rather like those in the Straits of Malacca discovered by esteemed sometime anthropologist Domenica MacDonald, established resident of Scotland Street. But I digress...)

Obviously I'd need a new food processor and new plastic banana leaf curry plates (not kidding) but in the digital age, even photo albums aren't quite as priceless as they once were. I've learned that I wouldn't miss the telly or DVD player at all, and my bookshelves would groan with delight if five of the packing crates were to perish.

Oh but hang about, no, it would be awful. There remain two purely analogue parts of my life that are irreplaceable - I'd even save them from the waves before my (horrendous) wedding album - it's my recipe folders. (The eagle-eyed may notice that the plastic folders are now pluralised - streamlining fail.)

I'm rather lost without them and long to have them back in pride of place. Not because I use them every day, but because they're sort of comforting to have around when you've run out of inspiration half way through an online Sainsburys order. Instead, I'm currently reduced to about 10 recipe books; all the crappy/unused ones that were deemed unnecessary when we abandoned our house two years ago. Or so I thought...

Dom's challenge this month is to choose a recipe from the 17th book on your shelf, and for this I had to count round my diminished shelf twice, hoping against hope to avoid the bossy toddler meal planners and deluded slo-cooker evangelists. Oddly, the random book turned out not to be crap at all, the complete opposite in fact. It was Nigel Slater in an almost unrecognisable incarnation.

Nigel Slater's Real Food is my husband's book and, as far as I can tell, has sat on a shelf unused since 1998. I've never even thought to look at it. I can't justify that, it's just one of those unforgivable things that's happened over the years.

Like plastic footwear.

The random recipe selected was on page 118, Pasta with spicy sausage, basil and mustard. Unfortunately I couldn't get any spicy Italian sausages, so I used the inners of some good pork and leek instead (de-skinned and crumbled into the pan). They weren't quite right, a wee bit too sweet, but it was still really tasty, and probably suited The Boss' palate better. White wine (I used Noilly Prat just because that's what I always have to hand), fresh basil, chilli flakes, mustard, double cream, bronze die penne; you can't really argue with any of it can you? I think it has the makings of a great store-cupboard staple supper for the future. My conscience can't comfortably accept that cholesterol + carbs = a family meal, so I confess to adding a few large handfuls of frozen peas to the pasta water about four minutes before the end of the cooking time. (Sacrilege I know - just don't tell the Italian part of my family - seriously.)

I'm so glad to get back into the Random Recipe project after a few months absence, caused (in part) by the messy chaos of our lives. As well as being a signal that things might be settling down at last, it's prompted me to unearth this treasure of a book. And despite what I really think is a pretty dire cover shot (by the time the 2009 edition came out others clearly concurred) the food photography really is lip-licking.

sorry, no picture of our actual dinner, it was eaten too fast!

Do head over to Belleau Kitchen at the end of the month to see what everyone else has randomly selected!

16 March 2012

project 52: the "eyes" of march

In November 2009, in the pitch dark of a Winter afternoon, my toddler and I prepared some pots in anticipation of Spring. Tiny white tulip bulbs, white daffodils and three hellebore plants. Dressed in her fleecy jumpsuit, mittens and hat, my two-year-old patted down the soil over the bulbs and coined a phrase that I will now use for ever when planting bulbs, saying that she was "tucking the flowers in to bed for the Winter". By the time Spring arrived, we were on our way to the other side of the world at the start of our tropical adventures, so we never did get to see the pot waking up.

Three Springs later, The Boss is a leggy wisecracker who has completely forgotten that lovely cold, dark afternoon, in fact she's forgotten that afternoons can be cold and dark. But on arriving home from the airport she immediately decided to go and pick me some flowers. Turns out that those hellebores (or aptly-known "Lenten roses") are the first and only flowers in the garden at the moment, so that's what she brought me. If you've ever seen them, you'll know that hellebores have beguiling eyes that you can spend ages peering into. Hence they're my subject for p52, the "eyes" of March.

ISO200, f/10, 1/25s, macro filter on 50mm lens, cloudy WB
auto curves applied in photoshop
a bit fuzzy - that might have been me shivering...

project 52 p52 weekly photo challenge my3boybarians.com

03 March 2012

project 52: a great leap

Well, the time has come. We're not even close to being ready. But even my hairdresser has banished the faux sun-kissed blonde from my locks in preparation for our return to the UK, so there's no turning back now.

Moving to Singapore in 2010 was a great leap for us, a family who had never lived abroad, and knew not a thing or a body in this tiny island in the South China Sea. Honestly, I'm not even sure that we knew it was an island in the South China Sea. But our great leap paid off a hundred times over and we've had the most wonderful experience.

the morning the packers came, no-one can possibly need this much kitchen ware... can they?

eighty one boxes later...
I had planned lots of posts detailing our Singapore highlights, so that I will remember them for more than about two days after we leave. The best places to eat, the best places to shop, the best places to drink coffee and our favourite little hidden, off-the-radar places to drink cocktails. But time has run out, so I guess it's suffice to say: if you're stopping over in Singapore for any reason and don't know your way about, leave me message and I'll give you the lowdown... if I can remember it.

In short, in Singapore I have learned:
  1. how to stay presentable while eating noodle soup with chopsticks while wearing a white shirt
  2. that there is a caveat to lesson one: choose your noodles wisely. Ramen or wanton mee = childsplay, pho and udon = trickier, la mian = almost impossible, and laksa = don't even try it, especially if you have to share your table with a stranger (which is quite usual in Singapore). You will ruin that busy businessman's shirt for ever 
  3. that it's curiously impossible to avoid getting a bit weepy at the National Day Parade song - even when it's not your own nation
  4. how to design and draw fine jewellery
  5. more fascinating and heartbreaking history than during my whole previous 30 years - if you've never heard of the Fall of Singapore, I urge you to read Tanamera by Noel Barber, or A Different Sky by Meira Chand
  6. that hor fun is a lip-lickingly indulgent dinner, not some kind of illegal activity, and nobody will snigger when you ask for some
  7. that Kampong Glam is the oldest, most historic and most stunning part of the city, and not a specialist nightclub
  8. that I love roti prata more than it loves me (plate full of fried lardy dough with curry sauce, indigestion much? Trust me, it has to be tried to be believed.)
  9. to take an umbrella - always take an umbrella - always
  10. that no matter how different your surroundings, you will remain, fundamentally, the same. So there's no point in saying "I'll do more xxx once I've moved house" or "I'd make more time for yyy if we lived in this place or that situation". Personally, I've found that my habits, my preferences, my style, my flaws and my abundant neuroses are exactly the same in Singapore as they are in Scotland. Enriched perhaps, with wider horizons certainly, but I haven't morphed into the smoothly tanned, svelte, stylish, relaxed, tropical uber-femme that I had in mind two years ago. Turns out, I'm still me. Bummer eh?!
In Singapore I have not:
  1. learned to love seafood - I really wish I had
  2. decided what the national sport is; between shopping and eating, it's just too close to call
  3. learned a single Chinese character or Mandarin phrase, much to my daughter's amusement
  4. lost a single pound; despite the onsite swimming pool and gym the scales remain steadfast (which I actually consider no small achievement given points 1, 2, 6 and 8 above)
  5. got to the bottom of the concept of "heatiness", a subject which I find endlessly fascinating
  6. had my eyebrows threaded, as my hairdresser assures me that it would make me cry
  7. eaten a durian
  8. learned to love the wildlife - ants, snakes, roaches, rats, monkeys, countless tail-less feral cats - I shan't miss even the very idea of you
  9. taken any of the photography classes I intended to - d'oh
  10. acclimatised; between March and October air con has been my most constant friend, albeit a fickle, cranky and financially demanding one who needs endless supervision and medical attention
So long Singa-ling, ta ta to the tai tai life, it's been fun... sniff.

    project 52 p52 weekly photo challenge my3boybarians.com
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