Monday, August 31, 2009

Month of the Damned

Month of the Damned, originally uploaded by Sophie_vf.

OK, it's a 2008 diary entry, but it's just as true this year, and even more so because they're starting in August.

We were actually expecting a lot more pain and strife, since they have been staying up till midnight and getting up around 9 for the last few weeks. I think the school subroutine kicked in and activated their brains, and got them up and at it with no trouble at all. A bit scary, that, seemingly a testament to early indoctrination of structure.

This school year actually feels like a continuation of the last one, since both kids keep the same teacher and classroom (no, they didn't flunk a year - they're both in the last year of a two-year split), which adds further to the sense of anticlimax. So it doesn't feel so much like new beginnings, as the end of a Really Really Long Weekend.

On a side note, this reminds me how little I've been drawing lately, almost none since the summer started. Damned 365!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Caroline bay, 1987

Caroline bay, originally uploaded by Sophie_vf.

I've been meaning for months to scan some slides and pictures from pre-digital days, in particular the slides taken during my travels in Australia, New Zealand, and the Philippines after university.

I remember seeing this slide shortly after it was developed and wishing it had been in better focus, that it didn't have the blurry grasses in the foreground, etc etc. But now, looking back over the decades, this perfectly captures that retrieved memory - heat, high sun, sand, and grass on a New Zealand beach, twenty-two years ago and far away from home and responsibility.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Process oriented

Since starting the 365 photo project, I've almost, of necessity, become interested in organization and processing software. Previous to this, I'd had the attitude that if it wasn't good enough SOOC (straight out of the camera), it wasn't good enough, period. However, trying to take a picture every day, whether there was a picture to take, and whether I had enough time or energy to put into it, made for some really abysmal pictures. This was pretty much evident within the first week. So after picking up Photoshop Elements at Costco, I started playing around and found that aside from quick fixes to exposure and contrast and cropping, you could really go to town with processing.

This isn't always a good thing.

summergreen, 237/365

I'm not in love with this shot. Actually, I kind of hate it. It was one of those last-minute, end of the day pictures, after working in the lab in the evening and coming home to poke around in the garden. The SOOC pictures is flat, soft (those last-minute shots are inevitably taken indoors at night) and pretty much lifeless. On the other hand - should the near-lifeless always be revived?

I threw on some textures from Boccacino and Rita at the Coffeeshop (not to slag them or the use of textures - they can be used judiciously to wonderful effect) and played with gradients till I got something kind of workeable.

And in the end, I admit I got carried away with the processing here, making me think: if the day was so busy I didn't have time to *take* a decent shot, then why do I have time to salvage it through processing?

On the other hand, sometimes processing really makes me happy. I recently started using LightRoom, which is ungodly expensive; an academic discount placated my frugal nature. I like it best for its organization and sorting capabilities, but also because you can lightly retouch minor things like exposure and contrast very quickly, leaving the picture in a more natural state. And in general, that is what I prefer - something as close as possible to what I saw while I was right there: I look at processing not as a tool to create something unreal, but as a way to bring back some of the reality that didn't get picked up by the camera sensor, whether through technical limitations, lighting difficulties, or user error. So this, taken in the coulees in the soft evening light at the end of a hot August day - this, I'm happy with.

sunburned out, 238/365

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Embossed in green, 235/365

Embossed in green, 235/365, originally uploaded by Sophie_vf.

Embossed leaves socks are apparently in the top 5 of most knitted socks on Ravelry, and now that I've started a pair, I can see why. I know I keep saying that lace and socks just don't make sense (if it's cold enough to wear socks, it's cold enough that you don't want holes in them) but I love knitting lace, and when I finally wound up the skein of Malabrigo Sock I got from my SIL Julie, I really wanted to do something special with it: the yarn is so soft, smooth, and beautiful to touch it begs for a beautiful pattern to match.

However, Mona Schmidt's design is full of quirks, like the stockinette heel with a three-stitch garter edging. I usually just plug the stitch pattern into a standard sock formula, but this time around I thought I'd try knitting it as written, quirks and all - but the stockinette heel is just not going to work for me. It's enormous! It will drive me nuts wearing it. So, off it comes, and I'm going to re-knit with a standard slip stitch heel.

distressingly puffy heel

Tech specs:
yarn: Malabrigo Sock, colorway Solis
pattern: Embossed Socks, from Favorite Socks by Interweave Knits
needles: 2.5mm Inox circulars
started August 23

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Retro rib, 231/476

Retro rib, 231/476, originally uploaded by Sophie_vf.

Finally, I finished the socks I have seemingly been knitting all summer!
These have showed up previously as socks of resignation but I am now much happier with them. The second skein, and therefore the second sock, is actually quite a bit brighter than the first. This used to drive me crazy about handpainted yarns, but now that I realize you can hardly tell the difference after you've worn and washed them a few times, it doesn't bug me anymore.

They turned out too big for me - I should have known that 64 stitches on 2.75 mm needles probably would. But they fit my daughter perfectly. August 19.

recap of tech details:

Pattern: Retro Rib socks from Interweave Knits Favorite Socks
Yarn: Lorna's Laces in Tuscany, from my sister in law Julie
Needles: Brittany Birch, 2.75mm
June - August 2009

Hyles, 228/365

Hyles, 228/365, originally uploaded by Sophie_vf.

A nice plump hawkmoth caterpillar found by my daughter during our morning dog walk. She has a terrific eye for all kinds of natural things. I was pretty excited to see this, as in my previous life, I was a research technician and this insect is actually one of the biological control agents released to control leafy spurge that we used to rear in the lab, or rather my colleage did. (but I did have to throw them food when it was my turn to work weekends).

We are going to rear this one out to adulthood. The adult moth is pretty impressive. Hopefully all will go well - we've had problems in the past rearing out tent caterpillars (yes, I know, a pest) because they were parasitised by flies; so in fact, we ended up rearing parasitic flies. This one looks really healthy, though. We might end up having to overwinter it once it pupates, in which case it can reside safely in the vegetable crisper till ready for emergence and release in the spring. August 16.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Don't be shy

cinnamon rolls, 138/365

Several years ago, our Christmas project was to put together a cookbook with several family favorites. Since we made it, new favorites have emerged and although I've made a few attempts to compile a new version, I somehow haven't gotten the momentum. But I'm up for more suggestions, and I'll have a look through my old e-mails for recipes my siblings have sent me over the years.

In the meantime, here's the first edition, for anyone who's lost the first one (or, like me, have gotten it so splattered/sticky as to become unusable). I admit I use the dessert/baking section more than anything else, but I also use the pancit recipe once in a while, and this weekend, being an unseasonably rainy August weekend, I'm planning on using the perogie recipe.

The name is from our Lolo Berting's famous exhortation anybody appeared to hesitate over food: "Don't be shy!" (click to download pdf file)

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

empanada madness

empanada madness, originally uploaded by Sophie_vf.

I just didn't get as many empanadas as I wanted while on holiday with my family in BC, since the Empanada Lady was on holiday (the nerve!). Being denied my fix, I have set out to make my own. I've made them before. They're usually not very good. These were better than *my* usual, but still not as good as Empanada Lady's.

empanada madness

My trusty assistant helped roll out the pastry into nice little circles, and put in a couple of tablespoons of filling, which today is ground pork, lots of garlic and onions, potatoes, peas, raisins, and seasoning. This time around, I used a couple of dollops of chili sauce, and some sweet pickle relish. I'm not too sure why.

empanada madness

empanada madness

Instead of just flattening the edges with a fork, I folded them in to make a fluted edge, which not only looks nicer, it prevents leakage. I actually learned this on youtube, of all places, in which some guy gets instructed in empanada folding by a cheerfully cantankerous lola, who at one point, I am sure, tells him "you're doing it like a white guy!". But my Tagalog is pretty rusty, so that could be misinterpretation on my part.

They didn't get quite as brown as I expected (maybe I am used to the deep brown of the fried versions) but I really couldn't bake them any longer without them turning really dry and tough. As it is they're a bit, robust than I really like them. But I'm sufficiently encouraged that I am going to try them again soon, hoping to improve the pastry and pump up the seasoning a bit.

empanada madness

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

tandoori bun, beta version. 222/365

I am not at all a foodie; in fact, I would rather do just about anything other than cook, and I am usually perfectly content with some variant of meat and potatoes (or meat and rice). However, I recently became obsessed with 1) empanadas, the Filipino versions, and 2) curry buns, just recently and by accident.

Okay, there is a reason behind this: while in Winnipeg for a conference, my supervisor and I both bought curry chicken buns from the Sri Lankan stall at the Forks, to eat on the plane (Air Canada doesn't give you so much as a peanut for a 2 hour flight). They were so good (again, I am used to quite boring food), I really wanted to try making one myself. But, instead of using an actual recipe (!), since I was making tandoori chicken that evening, I had the cunning plan of using the leftovers to make buns.

I chopped up the chicken, fried some onions with curry paste to make a gravy, then added the chicken and some cilantro leaves. Then I stirred in some corn. I don't really know why. Oh, and a cilantro/mint/ginger chutney I made earlier to eat with the chicken.

Next time, based on suggestions from my siblings and Facebook friends:
start from scratch, and forget the tandoori plan
make a really GOOD thick gravy to hold it all together, add a bit of cornstarch
forget the corn
cilantro good, mint bad.

also, try the breadmaker version of dough.

Meanwhile, these are still not too bad. Even if they were only 65% satisfactory, that is still a C+ curry bun.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

offering, 212/365

offering, 212/365, originally uploaded by Sophie_vf.

Yesterday's post at Shutter Sisters talked about the comic relief of the bathroom portrait, as an antidote to boredom.

I don't know about boredom, but I've resorted to the bathroom portrait more than once during this 365 project, partly because it's the one place in the house that has both a mirror, and rather nice natural, diffuse lighting. I've taken lots of previous bathroom shots not so much as self-portraits but of various knitting projects. Photojojo's suggestion to include self-portraits as part of your 365 project to see how you've changed over the year has given me a reason to take them of my actual self, not merely as an prop to drape knitwear over. Self portaits are always a little awkward for me, not just for the technical challenge of getting an AF lens to focus on the reflection in the mirror, not to mention trying to get a picture aimed correctly when you're not looking through the viewfinder. But it's also impossible not to be at least a little bit self-conscious. So it's a little bit of a leap of faith, to trust in the camera, and get an image that feels like a little like an offering, a little piece of self to share with the outside world.