Monday, April 18, 2011
Saturday, April 16, 2011
A few weeks ago, I came to the sudden realisation that I had again been starving my creative self. I am not pleased with how the earnest pursuit of survival frequently causes me to forget that colour even exists.
I needed a quick remedy, so the following day I set aside an extra couple of hours in the city en route to church, to sit in the craft section of the Japanese bookshop and absorb ideas.
Which is how I came to make the acquaintance of:
It's a hybrid of photographic storybook and pattern/idea book, with full instructions for making your very own amineko (Japanese contraction for crochet cat) and its accessories.
I love cats; I love miso soup. I all but giggled when I opened the book to the sight of the blue neko with perpetually closed eyes imbibing. Yes, I'd been that deprived.
And yes, I know. I have a whole collection of my own photographs of stuffed animals in various poses and settings. It's just nice when I find myself in company.
And if, like me, you have no craft book budget at present, fear not. Nekoyama's original pattern is available for free here. You don't get the patterns for the other items; no glossy pages full of quirky amineko tableaux (such as black amineko hard at work "crocheting little ones")...
But hey, you can still crochet your own amineko to pose anywhere and any way you want. Whether or not yours turns out to be reproductively minded, it looks like fun. Wonder if I'll ever get around to it. Probably sometime after I learn to crochet.
Almost everything that I could do wrong, I did.
The butter, instead of being ice-cold, was somewhere just below room temperature.
I used the wrong flour -- on purpose -- despite knowing that wholemeal tends to produce dry, hard, unpalatable results compared to white. But that's the kind of allowance you make once you decide to stop letting white flour cross your doorway.
I added water to what looked like too dry a mixture, only to realise the error in the recipe book that put this step before the addition of the milk.
This left me with, instead of a malleable dough that I could roughly knead and cut, a glob of sticky and stretchy that provided my forearms with a thorough workout as I tried to separate my hands. I began to wonder if I would need to call/go outside for help. I walked further along the wondering trail, which brought me to the question of how I would manage to use my touch-screen phone or open/knock on doors while my hands were effectively glued together, with my fingers embedded in dough.
Fortunately, I didn't come to that. I still don't know how, but I eventually got the dough to stick to the floured pastry board. Still humming prayers that my many mistakes not be visited upon these innocent third parties, I closed the oven door and turned my back.
What do you know, grace shows up again in my kitchen. (Given the slapdash, misdirected way I tend to approach most food preparation projects, I think grace has permanently set up home in there. As you can see, it's a very welcome guest.)
They did take twice as long to bake as the recipe stated, and after the third day had reached a consistency that lent itself more to holding down paper documents than chewing. But still. I'm glad I tried, so now I know they really are easy to make. No longer will I mourn the loss of my favourite savoury scones from the line-up at the bakery; I can make up my own flavours.
Thursday, April 14, 2011
Nothing like poking holes in a freshly steamed pau (none of that hanyu pinyin "bao" business when you're spelling in Hokkien) to start the day on a warm, sweet puff of nostalgia.
When we were children, my brother and I used to ceremonially do this to any pau we were served at the dim sum table. It lets the heat escape so you don't steam your tongue on hot filling. And, in some cases, it brings your pau on aesthetic par with the plate.
White flour, check. Refined sugar, check; thickener, check; saturated fat, check. Aaaaaand we're good to start the day.
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Monday, April 11, 2011
Saturday morning: I pulled it off again, and again not on purpose. Stackable Baked Goods, Part II.
So my ball cookies spread while baking into the one large cookie with vaguely rectangular delineations.
Thursday, April 07, 2011
I had so much trouble with this picture. I'd taken it spontaneously, while on one of my usual walks home from anywhere. The late-afternoon light had come up around the corner and smacked me in the face, and I had to try and snatch some of it to keep. What else are pocket cameras for?
But when I got to editing the shot, I found so many things wrong with it.
I wished that those wheelie bins were not there.
I wished those people had parked their cars somewhere else.
I wished the power pole was a few feet behind me so it wouldn't spoil my shot. And the stop sign -- was it even necessary? Don't drivers know well enough to stop behind the yellow line, especially on steeply sloping blind corners?
I wished that my camera was sensitive enough to take in the sight that first got my attention: raindrops being swept upwards in spirals by the strong wind, each drop dressed in luminous gold by the sunlight.
I nearly talked myself out of saving the picture at all, out of posting it here.
But which is worse: to unintentionally capture these unglamorous images of dustbins and strangers' cars; or to give myself no reminder of the moment? To take the best shot I can get, or not to try at all and risk forgetting that life offers us such lovely sights for free?
I think these are the questions I am at present asking, about bigger things than sunlight on street corners. The choice lies open, whether to wait for circumstances and people and equipment to be perfect -- or to accept what is offered to me, and bring home the beauty.