31 May 2011

Creative Collective May Project: In The Hoop Part 2!

Sneaking in one last In the Hoop project for the last day of May!

I got my hands on some teeny tiny 3" hoops a while ago (they are adorably small), and I had a couple of old check shirts lying about (I loved the fabric too much to throw the out).  Put the two together, add a cross stitch heart and voila, here we are!  I can't wait to work on a few more, maybe some in pink or perhaps a fluorescent rainbow?  So much potential!  Don't you think this would look super cute as a present topper?  You could use fabric ink to stamp the back with a message?

28 May 2011

Three cook books I love right now...

I've long been a fan of food porn - I pick up Australian Gourmet Traveller whenever I can, I have a significant relationship with Amazon's 'cooking, food and wine' section, and I covet my sister's substantial cook book collection.  And these days, now that we live in an apartment with a seriously good kitchen, I'm actually not just looking at the pretty pictures!  No, these days I'm actually putting some of this ogling to good use and (heaven forbid!) following the recipes, or at the very least using some of the ideas in the recipes...

So here are three cook books I'm thoroughly enjoying right now (all going well I'll hopefully post some recipes from them down the track too).

India by Pushpesh Pant (published by Phaidon) is to Indian what The Silver Spoon is to Italian.  It is ridiculously comprehensive (the pickle and chutney section alone is 25 pages long), and it also has a great introduction which gives you a bit of history and an overview of the tastes and styles across different regions.  Plus, it's designed to look a bit like a bag of rice - cool, yes?

Salad as a Meal by Patricia Wells (published by Harper Collins) was recently added to the kitchen cupboard as part of my ongoing attempt to not get any bigger and to be a little bit healthy (or at least to feel a bit healthy).  I love Patricia's straightforward, no nonsense approach mixed with what seems to me to be a frightfully English upper middle class sensibility.  When I read about her favourite 'haunts in Provence' and how she uses 'antique French molds' for cheese making, I can't help but think of a voice not dissimilar to Prue and Trude.  And I do love her generously wide definition of what constitutes a 'salad' - roast beef on buttery toast as a salad?  This woman speaks my language!

The Flavour Thesaurus by Niki Segnit (published by Bloomsbury) is I guess not, strictly speaking, a cook book (although it does have recipes in it).  It's more a flavour pairing guide, a source of inspiration that's full of interesting tidbits about food.  It's written with a large dose of wit and humour too, so it's fun to read even when you're not about to cook (although it might make you a bit peckish).  

This book is perfect for when you want to experiment a bit, or if you're a bit like me and consider recipes as rough guides rather than strict orders to follow.  It's perfect for when you're at the market and spy some freshly shelled Spring peas that you have to have.  Just look up 'pea' and you'll find such wonderful pointers as: 'liking pea and chicken is about as interesting as liking warm sunshine...' and 'Pea & Pork - as fitting a pair as legs in breeches...' and 'Surf 'n' Turf is all very well but fish goes best with ingredients that truly taste of turf, not just graze on it...'

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Do you have any favourite cook books at the moment?  I'd love to know if you do!  Tell me in the comments below, and if you do your own post on your own blog, make sure you leave the link in the comments too!

27 May 2011

Death by Doxie: The Black and White Edition

I've always been a sucker for black and white photography.  There's something about seeing the world sans colour which adds a certain depth to images.  I love the way it brings pattern, shape and shadow to the fore.  

My camera has a black and white setting which I've been playing around with.  It's probably just my imagination, but I think setting the camera to b&w (rather than changing from colour to b&w in post production) gives the image a more rounded quality?  What do you think?

Do you love black and white photos too?

Six Senses Tour: Guest post for Gifts of Serendipity

Today I am super excited to be guest posting over at Gifts of Serendipity as part of the awesome 'Six Senses Tour', where bloggers from around the world have been sharing a little slice of their neighbourhood.  If you'd like to find out a bit more about the wonderful Namdaemun Market (which is right on my doorstep!), you can read my post here.  And it's well worth having a look at all the other posts in the series, you can find links to them in Felicity's side bar.

And, if you've popped over from the post a big warm hello to you!  Thanks for clicking over, I do hope you find something you like!

Emily x

26 May 2011

Creative Collective May Project: In The Hoop

Well, I finally got myself organised in time to connect up with another one of the Creative Collective projects.  In The Hoop is all about craft projects that use embroidery hoops (and not necessarily for embroidery!).  It kind of helped that I am a bit hoop mad at the moment - the project has been a good motivator for me to finally make the time to put some of my ideas in to action.

These two hoops are the little 4" ones, and they are part of a 'Seasons' series that I've started working on. Here's Summer and Winter (if you can't figure out which is which I clearly haven't done a good job!), with Autumn and Spring to come, at some point.  Due to my complete inability to follow a pattern, this is free hand embroidery - I have some basic gridlines to follow and a bunch of ideas in my head, but really the design unfolds as I'm making it.  They'll be in my Etsy shop soon.

What do you think?

It's not too late for you to join in too - hop on over to the Creative Collective blog for all the details and for tons of crafty inspiration!  It's a great blog to follow for links to crafty ideas and how tos, go have a look see!

25 May 2011

Jenolan Caves

A few weeks back we did a whirlwind trip to Australia to see the step sons and we spent a wonderful weekend at Jenolan Caves - a spectacular set of caves just on the other (non-Sydney) side of the Blue Mountains.  The caves really were wonderful, my dodgy photos in no way do them justice!  

I'd been there before but this visit was amazing - we were a bit more organised and actually booked some tours (actually, our friends booked them on our behalf - thanks Kylie!).  Plus we did the morning tours which meant a lot less people which meant it was a lot more enjoyable.  

Also, last visit we stayed at the onsite accommodation which is a bit manky and if you stay there you are forced to eat the food at Caves House, which is not a pleasant thing.  This time we stayed 7 kms out at the Jenolan Caves Cottages, which were still a bit manky but which were set in the midst of thick woodlands, surrounded by kangaroos and kookaburras and cockatoos.  Plus they had the best gas heater to keep us toasty warm at night, spots for campfires and marshmallow toasting (a big hit with step son number one), and a kitchen which meant we could load the car with steak and fruit and cheese and wine and cook our own meals - what more could one ask for?

(they may look cute but don't be fooled, they turn mean once they get a whiff of your Cheesels...)

And then there is the stunning blue lake just near the caves, which houses a bunch of show off platypi (platypuses?).  Now, if you know anything about the humble platypus you'd know that they are normally very shy and very retiring critters, so it's pretty unusual to be able to see one gamboling about in the broad day light, but these guys do just that.  I'd show you a photo of them but clearly I need to invest in some kind of zoom lens, as all my photos look like a wiggly brown stick floating in the lake (at least I know it's a platypus, and that's all that really matters right?).  But the lake itself is stunning - just look at the reflections!

Good food, great company, blue sky, a bit of wildlife and a warm heater - sometimes the simplest getaways are the absolute best, don't you think?

24 May 2011

Things to Love about Korea #3: Weddings

[Korean wedding dolls by selva]

Over the weekend the husband and I were very honored to be invited to the wedding of one of his work colleagues.  It was my first taste of a modern Korean wedding - I had a feeling it was going to be a bit different from weddings I'd been to in the past when I asked the bride-to-be how many guests where coming and she replied 'I don't know, I'm not sure who's going to turn up' - and I must say I think they've got the whole thing sorted.

To set the scene: dotted throughout the city there are these multi-story wedding buildings, with wedding rooms on each level.  The ceremony takes place in these function rooms, at the alloted time.  The guests arrive at various times, in various states of formal and not-so-formal wear, and they come and go as they see fit.

At the entrance to the room where the ceremony takes place there are two tables - one for the bride and one for the groom.  When you arrive as a guest, you approach the appropriate table and hand over an envelope of cash (that's the only wedding gift you need to worry about) and you sign the guest book.  The amount gets recorded and the pile of cash gets tallied throughout the afternoon.  

In return for handing over your envelope of cash you get a ticket to the buffet restaurant, which is directly across from the function room and which opens at the same time the ceremony starts.  So when beautiful flowers and the acapella singing in the function room gets a bit too much, you can nip over to the buffet for a quick feed, and then back to the ceremony again.  Once you've handed over your cash and said hi to the parents and the bride and groom, you can stay for 50 minutes or 15 minutes.  No one bats an eye if you leave after the walk down the aisle.

So, no wedding registry, no catering woes, no fretting over seating charts and RSVPs, no Uncle Bob falling asleep in the front row, no interminably long ceremony from which there is no escape. Just a beautiful bride, lots of happy friends and family, and a minimum of pomp and circumstance. I think maybe if we did weddings like that in Australia I may not have been so keen to run away to get married...

23 May 2011

Spring in the Garden: Maple

Oh hello, Monday.  You again hey?  What I really need is a week in bed with cups of hot tea and endless crosswords, but what I get instead is you, with all your to do lists and wants and demands. Bleurgh.

Nevermind, here are some pretty pictures of the Japanese maples in our garden, which have burst to life after Winter which such force!  They always cheer me up.  I remember we planted a Japanese maple in our front yard when I was a kid, and it always seemed so exotic and pretty and fragile.  It didn't do too well though, partly I guess because it's the Japanese maple, not the Melbourne, Australia maple.  And partly because it was somewhat overawed by the giant, giant oak tree (this thing was, is, huge!) that was also out the front and that no doubt pinched all it's water and sunshine.  Boo to the bully oak!

By way of comparison, here's what the maple looked like four short weeks ago:

Hope your week is kicking off to a good start! x

21 May 2011

Spring in the Garden: Azaleas

As I've already confessed I am not a gardener.  Luckily we have a garden full of low maintenance plants that just do their thing,* and I am constantly fascinated and amazed by their transformation through the seasons.

A few short weeks ago the azaleas where just a bunch of straggly brown twigs.  Now, thanks to some sunshine, warm weather and lots of rain, they are literally bursting forth with green growth and a carpet of bright purple blooms.  Lovely!

*(Plus we also have some people that come to our apartment every fortnight or so and keep all our plants happy and healthy - they are Korean retirees actually, with a passion for plants, and they do an amazing job).

19 May 2011

Three vases I love right now...

I am slowly, slowly building a collection of white vases and I would very much love this stunning piece to be the next addition.  It's by German porcelain manufacturer Kaiser, and it can be found in the truly amazing vintage decor store 1001 Vintage (but don't you go and buy it ya hear?  It's mine, all mine!)

Even though I can't buy Jonathan Adler anywhere (not in Hong Kong! not in Seoul! and only the tiniest bit in Australia!) I torture myself by getting his updates delivered right to my inbox, where I can dream of what I might buy if they didn't charge US$300 for shipping one table cloth (you think I'm joking about that shipping cost? I looked in to it and unfortunately I'm not...).  First on my list would be something bright and cheerful from the Carnaby range, the blue scale vase perhaps?

And then, because it's all about bits of greenery floating in the air right now, there's these lovely test tube vases from Pigeon Toe.

18 May 2011

The A to Z of Animals

I may have expressed my love of Muji before but it really can't be overstated: I adore Muji. Unfortunately the Muji stores in Korea tend to focus more on the useful stuff (like blankets and slippers and wooden spoons), rather than the fun Muji stuff.  Luckily I visit Hong Kong just enough to assuage my Muji-fun-stuff cravings - like this book for example, which allows you to create a paper animal alphabet, hurrah!

During the recent school holidays, a desperate attempt to corral the overflow of orgami and paper craft in Joe's room and to create some space so that his desk could actually serve the purpose for which it was designed led to this - an animal alphabet garland (in a to z order of course).  Cool, huh? It's given me some crafty ideas too...

ps. did you notice the 'U' is a unicorn?!

16 May 2011

My Black Thumb of Death

[crochet cacti by planetjune]

I do not have a green thumb.  I don't even have a green-tip-of-my-pinky.  In fact, my thumb is so not green I recently managed to provide a slow painful death for a succulent.  Yep, a succulent.  Those plants that are sold as 'impossible to kill' and 'perfect for the non-gardener'.  

So it was with a slight sinking feeling that I recently received a gift of grow-your-own basil.  But ignoring my track record I followed the picture instructions (plant seeds, water - tricky stuff!), put the pot on the kitchen window and held my breath.  And guess what?  It's sprouting and growing and totally not dying!  Ok, so it's not quite at the 'honey can you pick me some basil to toss in this pasta' stage yet, but may there is still hope for my black thumb of death?

To be continued...

12 May 2011

Death by Doxie

I'm sitting in the airport in cold and rainy Melbourne, waiting to start the long trip home.  It's been a pretty fabulous visit (more on that latter) but I'm not jumping for joy about the journey ahead.  The flight is overbooked which is never fun, plus it means my upgrade request didn't go through (*sheds tears, stamps feet, says 'it's not fair' in voice of tantrum throwing three year old, etcetera*).  But, in two plane rides (and a brief Hong Kong stopover) I'll be home hanging out with my hounds and my husband, so it's all good really!

10 May 2011

Road Trip: Taedunsan

Another stop on our road trip - 대둔산 (Taedunsan, or Daedunsan, depending on which romanization you prefer - and believe me there's no standard, so feel free to switch on a whim!).  Taedunsan is famous for it's two iron bridges, one which is strung between two peaks, and another that's more like a very steep, slippery ladder.  

Apparently it used to be quite a trek to get to these bridges, but now there's a cable car which takes you up the hill so you can do the whole walk in about 30 minutes or so.  But don't be fooled in to thinking this is a leisurely stroll - the Bridge of Doom, Ladder of Potential Heart Attacks and the Goat Track of Peril (as we renamed them) are still delightfully challenging.  And if you are a bit scared of heights like me, the ladder type bridge is especially delightfully challenging (and by 'delightfully' I mean one step short of a complete panic attack).

Every single day before and after our visit to Taedunsan was blue sky, sunshine and a pleasant 20 degrees.  But on the day of our walk it was cold, wet and grey.  I mean, it actually literally properly snowed. We were completely unprepared for this sudden flash back to winter, and arrived sans any warm clothing what so ever in the manner of the worst/best hiking survival stories.  Thank goodness this was hiking Korean style (it's the best way to do it!), which meant there were restaurants and beer joints and shops selling scarves and warm socks everywhere.  One happy ajumma and four ridiculous looking beanies later, we were properly kitted out and on our way.

Despite the fog and cold it is a truly beautiful part of the world, and the walk is on the right side of difficult (enough so you feel like you've accomplished something, but not so much that it becomes a boring trudge).  Lovely.

ps. If you want more Daedunsan action, head on over to my Flickr (you may also find a picture of The Big Garlic here, if you have a good look around!).