Thursday, December 30, 2010

How to Cook Everything

How to Cook Everything is my new favorite app and I haven't even made anything with it yet! Mark Bittman from the New York Times had one of the top rated cookbooks (printed) this year and then he went and had an app made for $5 with all of the recipes, hints, lists, and illustrations! It's amazing. I'm all for printed cookbooks, but this one is definitely more transportable and about $25 cheaper!

It's got essential recipes for all the basics and covers food from a variety of cultures including France, India, and Africa.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Year in Pictures: Weeks 3-5

I've still been doing my daily photos (although I must confess that I missed one day by a few minutes and quickly took a photo in guilt and shame). There's quite a potpourri this time around of friends, Shanghai, and proof of my domesticity.
Dec 1: Christmas tree decorating with my roommates...they don't know about this picture.
Dec 2: What's more humiliating than wearing a Sponge Bob Square Pants outfit on Shanghai's 5th Ave? Having someone take a picture of you.
Dec 3: He looks calm now but those little fingers move faster than greased lightning.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Do You Hear What I Hear?

I've been listening to my 350 Christmas songs since Thanksgiving (that's nearly one day's worth of music, by the way) and I thought I'd share with you some of my favorite albums because 'tis the season for lists!
  1. A Charlie Brown Christmas: I hope you all have this. It's classic. There's no Christmas for me without Charlie Brown and the Vince Guraldi Trio.
  2. Seabird–Over the Hills and Everywhere: A new one I just picked up on Google music after hearing a bit on the Relevant podcast. Their version of "Go Tell It On the Mountain" is worshipful in the kind of way that makes you want to get out of your seat. What's not great about this line- "He made me a watchman upon the city wall and if I am a Christian, I am the least of all." Got to remember that. Have a listen:

  3. Brothers Figaro–Old Time Christmas: 1930's Gypsy Christmas music that sounds like it's being played on a gramophone. It's great, unusual, and a bit melancholy. Good to mix with other music.
  4. James Brown: You at least need "Soulful Christmas". It's just so funny.
  5. Elf Soundtrack: Pretty much one of the best Christmas mixes (with "Pennies from Heaven" thrown in) ever. I love it and it triggers the funniest moments of the movie. "Buddy the Elf, what's your favorite color?"
  6. Chris Tomlin–Glory in the Highest: Mr. Tomlin is not always my favorite, but this is a great, worshipful, upbeat Christmas album, especially My Soul Magnifies the Lord.
  7. Harry Connick, Jr.– Harry for the Holidays: It's Harry. It's good..although you can definitely tell the songs he penned himself.
  8. Sufjan Stevens–Songs for Christmas Vol I-V. Nice and low key, especially love his version of O Come, O Come Emmanuel.
  9. All Crooner Christmas songs: Bing Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald, Dean Martin, Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra. You just need it. No one does Christmas like them.

Here's wishing you a restful week where friends and family are valued and the Savior is worshiped.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

First Pictures with the Box Camera

I got back the photos from my first roll using my box camera. I was kind of scared that after all this, there was some leak of light or a broken mechanism of some sort that meant it doesn't actually take pictures as all.

Thankfully, I got a couple of good shots, which is great since it only takes 12 and there is nothing that indicates how far to turn the film so I actually only took 7.

There is definitely a different quality to these shots. I think I'm in love!

 My friend Arlene took this one so then...

...I took a picture of her. We're trying to look classic since it's an old camera. Also she's gorgeous and so photogenic. Admit it.

 This one is my favorite! I double exposed it. There are so many interesting things that resulted from it, I think–the tree trunk is clearly magic and there's a mysterious figure in the bottom right hand corner.

 My stairwell.

 And some shots from a moving vehicle. Very vague, but also kind of cool or is it just my infatuation with the camera that I can't see any of its faults?

Next I'm going to try my hand at some black and white film.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

We're Funny: Anne Taintor-esque photos

For my friend Tati's birthday, I had this great idea (I don't mind saying so cause it was a rare light bulb moment)--to do Anne Taintor-esque photos (vintagey with witty quips) with pictures of her friends. You have to understand how much Tati loves her Anne Taintor. During our college years I dragged her away from countless Taintor displays (and historic cemeteries--that's another unrelated story) and last summer during our 5th year reunion weekend, I caught her again carefully reading each magnet, card, and mug of her favorite gift brand.

So, several of us emailed around photos with our hilarious Ivy league wit and I made her some cards (and possibly a Christmas gift...) with them. Here are some of my favorites. Hopefully Anne Taintor will think we're as funny as we think we are and won't try to get me for copyright infringement...

 This one made you laugh, right?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Engagement Photos: JR & Annette

Just before Thanksgiving I had the pleasure of taking engagement photos of my friend JR and his new blushing fiancee (it hadn't even been 24 hours since he'd proposed!). This was my second engagement photo shoot, and I have to say that Shanghai is such a beautiful background for photos. I'm still getting the hang of taking people's photos (I tend to take pictures of a lot of inanimate objects, if you haven't noticed), but Jr & Annette were great and I got them to smooch lots! Woot woot!

Here are some, er, quite a few of my favorite shots from the day.

This one might be my favorite.
I muted the colors on this one. Don't you just love old doors, especially ones that match your sweater?

We took some photos on Moganshan Lu, one of the best places in town for graffiti or is it street art?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Year in Pictures: Week 2

I think I'm changing this to "Year in Pictures" instead of "Year of Pictures" or maybe not. Wait til next week to see, I guess.

Over the past week, I've had lots o' opportunities to take pictures both with my big hearken camera and my new box camera (which my friend David showed me how to work!)...On Saturday I took about one million photos of some yellow gingko trees...I'll be showing those later...

Side note--I love Christmas, don't you? but I'm also not quite ready to let go of fall. It's been an unusually autumnal fall here (if you've ever lived in Shanghai, you'll catch my drift) and it's my favorite season. Long bike rides, yellow leaves, light jackets, pumpkins, apples, crisp (weather and apple)'s too much to let go of...

  November 24: While on an engagement photo shoot (I say that like it's a regular thing I do) at Yu Garden, I took a picture of the voracious koi(s). Give those suckers some bread or your finger...
 Thanksgiving I: Isn't he the cutest little boy? Love him...taken at our annual Thanksgiving football game.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Directions: Getting from Taiwan to China

If you've ever wanted to know how to get to China from Taiwan, Google Maps has the solution...see number #23.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Just Finished: One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

Nothing like Russian lit to darken those bright, crisp autumn days. Why did I decide to read a Russian novel about a guy in a labor camp this side of January? At least it was short.

Ok. I'm exaggerating. One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn is not the world's most depressing Russian novel, and as the title suggests, it's about one day in this man's life. The narrative follows Ivan Denisovich from morning to night as he survives another day in a communist labor camp–a place where it seems no one is actually guilty of crimes against the Soviet empire.

This was Solzhenitsyn's first novel, published while the USSR remained intact and published because Khrushchev saw it as a way to separate himself from Stalin's policies. Probably everyone in Russia could relate to the story because either they themselves or a family member had been in one of the camps. And perhaps its most enduring legacy is that it was published during Communist rule.

The story itself is nothing particularly miraculous. After years shuttled from camp to camp, Ivan has learned how to survive in the harsh Siberian climate. Life is not at all fair and he hasn't forgotten it, but there is no sentimentality that connects him to his old life. He is there indefinitely and he lives as well as he can. He does odd jobs to raise a few rubles for his cigarettes. He works hard. He has neither optimism or pessimism. He is a fairly decent guy, in a situation that he cannot extricate himself from.

It's hard for me to say anything else about the novel. To me, it seemed pretty cut and dry and it's message was as well. No faulting that... I would be interested in reading more Solzhenitsyn and perhaps a newer copy was published shortly after it made waves in Russia...

Reading next: Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann

Year of Pictures: Week I

I made it through my first week of picture taking without forgetting once! I think I have to be careful that this little project doesn't become a chore and actually helps me develop my photographing many things I want to do better. I should be independently wealthy...

November 17: You've already seen this one, but it was the best one of the day...

November 18: Sarah and our yu xiang rou si (鱼香肉丝)—the latter of which is not completely in focus.

November 19: Post on Anfu Lu (安福路)

November 20: Detail of my scarf in a cab.

November 21: Wasted Day

November 22: Pillow Feather

November 23: The throwaway picture of the teensy closet. Smaller than the rest because it's such a boring picture, but I've only been to the gym today...

Which pic do you like best and why? Anything you'd alter?

I've got a photo shoot tomorrow. Wish me luck!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Birthday Recap No. 3: Cooking Class + An announcement!

In lieu of another long-ish row of pictures...I thought I'd do a collage of my birthday present from Sarah—a Chinese cooking lesson! So exciting. Chinese food is a mystery...a delicious mystery. There are so many different cuisines and tastes. It's a shame to live here so long and have no idea how anything is cooked.

Sarah found a cooking school that does at home lessons called the Flying Chef. They bring everything to your door from ingredients to cooking utensils. Amazing and a very good idea and something we couldn't afford to do in America.

Chef Li (love him. He was so warm and even gave me a hug) arrived promptly at 10:10 and started getting to work. The lesson wasn't so much hands on as watching, which was actually good. 1. Chinese kitchens are small and mine is quite large in comparison to most. 2. He explained why and how he did everything which was a wealth of knowledge and he had previously lived in Germany so I got the sense that he understood the differences in how East & West prepares cuisine. 3. Everything in Chinese food needs to be cut to have someone with a machete and several decades of Chinese cooking under his 10 gallon chef's hat.

The class is sort of designed for a larger group than 2 so we had A LOT of food. It was like Chinese Thanksgiving by 1:00 when everything was finished. I have lots of leftovers and it's seriously some of the best, freshest Chinese food I've ever eaten (did I mention that I live in China?)

Hopefully, I'll detail the how-to's in future posts.


Hopefully you didn't scoll quickly to the end of the post to get to this announcement. It's not that exciting...but here it is...

To make sure I don't go long stretches without taking pictures of anything, I've decided that this year (the 365 days from this birthday to the next) I'm going to take at least one photo a day and chronicle them week by week. 

In addition to my Nikon D60 and my little Sony, I just got this amazing camera as a birthday present from my roommates. I had coveted it when I went to that antique market and they went back and found it well over a month later. I'm so excited. I took it on Friday to the camera market to get it cleaned out and the repair lady seemed optimistic that it would still work. I'm really hoping so. If not, I'll still love's very old Shanghai.

Anyway, I expect you to keep me accountable if I don't seem to be posting any pictures.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Birthday Recap No. 2

My birthday was this week, in case you didn't get the memo I sent out to everyone on my email list. I really like birthdays and since there's a larger affair going on this weekend, I wanted to do a small, swankier meal at one of the restaurants in town that I've been pining away for for years—the classy M on the Bund

All day I was dreaming of their famous pavlova, which I'd only heard of...yum! A rare splurge!

I brought my point and shoot, which I think I've forgotten how to use...hence the collage in the middle.

I took a cab wearing large earrings I got for a previous birthday. And no, I have no idea where that light came from...apparently you get a halo on your 28th birthday. Did not see that written in the fine print, but I'll take it.

I convinced 3 of my girlfriends to get all dolled up and join me for dinner. They're quite beautiful don't you think? Then we (or maybe I) proceeded to order everything on the menu. No regrets people. 

Friday, November 19, 2010

Birthday Recap No. 1: Gnome sighting

Gnomes are elusive creatures, but sometimes on your birthday...they just might show up on your doorstep with a bouquet of purple flowers.           

If and when this happens to you, don't expect to catch them there on your stoop because by the time you see them, they're already inside.

You don't have to believe me, but you should. I'm speaking from experience...

The first thing you need to know is that it's hard to get a good picture of them. Remember: they are elusive.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Gap Finally Opens in China!

Gap is finally in Shanghai. Last Wednesday night was their launch party and I got to go check out the store before the public rush. Oh Gap, how I love thy simplicity in a world of bright colors and sequins.

I got to go under the guise of writing an article for CNNgo and (ahem) I may or may not have left with three to five Gap items in tow (paid for of course). Have a look at the article here!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Shanghai At Night

I don't really love taking pictures at night. I mean whoop whoop–bright lights. There is none of the warmth of the afternoon or freshness of the morning...actually. I think I might just like taking pictures in the afternoon. That could be problematic. 

But...if ever there was a place to take pictures at night, it's Shanghai. Goodness knows they use their fair share of neon. I was giving some visiting friends a little tour of the sparklier parts of the city last week so I took advantage of the fluorescent-laced skyline and got a few pics.

I don't know why, but I really like this picture. [East Nanjing Rd.]

More pics after the jump...

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Kitchening: Healthier Pumpkin Bread with Molasses

Even though pumpkins are available here year round, pumpkin bread, butter, cookies, pasta, etc, etc just aren't as appealing in warm winter months. I've been doing my own pumpkin puree the past two years and it totally pays off. I get sweet orange organic pumpkins. Cut them in half. Scoop out the seeds and roast them cut side down at 350 until tender. Scoop flesh and ta da. I don't actually puree. If they're cooked long enough, they fall apart on their own so no need to muck up another appliance!

But the recipe...(it got a little brown in the oven, by the way. I blame China.) I was searching high and low for a molasses pumpkin bread with no luck–it was eithe r plain pumpkin or have-a-little-pumpkin-with-your-molasses bread. So I found one with honey and tweaked the bejuizes out of it. It turned out delish and since people were still talking about it this week, I thought I'd share it with the world (or the 5 people who read my blog)...

Pumpkin Molasses Bread

Adapted from Cooking Light

1/2  cup  sugar
2  large eggs (or 4 egg whites)
1  cup   pumpkin puree
1/2  cup  plain low-fat yogurt
1/4  cup molasses
1/4  cup  honey
1  teaspoon  vanilla extract

2   cups whole wheat flour (or AP flour)
1  teaspoon  baking soda
1  teaspoon  salt
1/2  teaspoon  ground cinnamon
1/2  teaspoon  ground cloves
1/2  teaspoon  ground nutmeg

1/2  cup (ish)  raisins (or craisins)
1/3  cup (ish)  pecans

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Shameless Self-Promotion: Shanghai's Eco Design Fair

My latest article on the very cool Eco Design Fair which is held twice annually in our metropolis. It's pretty amazing how Shanghai's ascetic has grown in the five years I've been here, and I'm all for more well-designed, non-hemp sustainable products.

If you're in the area, the fair is this Saturday at Jianshan Market. More details here.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Just Finished: The Unlikely Disciple

While The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner's Semester at America's Holiest University is probably not timeless, it is definitely timely. Kevin Roose, an aspiring journalist from Brown University takes a semester off school to "study abroad" at the ultra-uber-conservative Christian Liberty University, known for its larger-than-life founder Jerry Falwell and its strict rules. Hiding the fact that he is a non-religious Quaker looking to write a book about his experiences, Roose emerges himself into a world that is wholly foreign to him.

What he encounters is hilarious, horrifying, and humbling (nice alliteration, no?). Few people fit the stereotypes that his concerned family and friends expect and Roose finds himself genuinely enjoying most of the people he meets at Liberty. Although he continues to disagree with their anti-gay, anti-abortion, Republican worldview, he does find himself changing as regular Bible reading, prayer, and church going become part of his life.

Roose even gets the opportunity to interview Jerry Falwell in what turned out to be his last interview and finds that the controversial leader of the Moral Majority also has a very likable side.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Just Finished: The Woodlanders

What a perfect name for a book. What a perfect book to read in October. And oh how nice to get back to some classic literature--there's something so much more grounded about it. Perhaps its the 100 years or so years it's had to be mulled over.  I am so bad at writing book reviews...anyway.

The Woodlanders is my second Thomas Hardy book and while not as heart rending as Jude the Obscure it is does have plenty of weight. Much like Jude the Obscure focuses primarily on Jude, The Woodlanders is a novel about a group of people who inhabit a small wooded area called Little Hintock. The whole novel is covered in leaves as Hardy describes this hub in the woods where nature and the seasons are almost a character unto themselves.

There is no one main character in the novel, but several major players and they are connected by the themes of love, desire, and loyalty.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Photos of fallen Fulu Jie

After my discoveries biking the other day, I wanted to return to a little area I saw on this tiny road called Fulu Avenue. The area is being slowly torn down (the character written below Chai means destroy or tear down) while a few houses remain intact enough for people to remain living there. 

I met an elderly woman washing clothes who was very excited to talk to me, which is unusual when I'm wielding a camera. I don't think she lived there but somewhere nearby and was using an outdoor faucet because the water is running free of charge amidst the rubble.

Unlike a lot of Chinese here, she was not so gung ho about having these old areas torn down to be replaced by bland high rises. I didn't take a picture of her, unfortunately. I just don't have enough gumption to ask yet, knowing how skittish it can make people here are a few mostly people free pictures.


More photos after the jump...

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Just Finished: The Dud Avocado

Oh scandalous cover! I get so many people trying to read my book covers on the metro that I tried to keep this one carefully tucked away. Oh's art people.

The Dud Avocado (author Elaine Dundy) was apparently received with very high praise when it was first published in the 50s. As Groucho Marx wrote, "I had to tell someone (and it might as well be you since you're the author) how much I enjoyed The Dud Avocado. It made me laugh, scream, and guffaw (which, incidentally, is a great name for a law firm)."

It's the witty story of a young American woman full of wanderlust. Recently graduated from college, her eccentric uncle gives her a comfortable allowance so she can go abroad and sow her wild oats, so to speak.

Sally Jay Gorce is the girl and words like zany and madcap don't quite do her (or the predicaments she gets herself into) justice--although they do fit in with the 1950s language of the novel. Living in Paris' Left Bank, she aimlessly hobnobs with a hodge-podge of people--artists, ne'er do wells, directors, an Italian diplomat, etc. All the while making a number of questionable decision which are a skillful combination of hilarious and unfortunate.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Listening: Mt. Desolation

I was in the mood for some new tunes and just saw that a band composed of members from Keene, Mumford & Sons (you are listening to Mumford aren't you), The Killers & Noah and the Whale has formed a "supergroup" side project that, so far as I can tell, seems to be a compilation of melancholyness and alt-country. Sounds about perfect for October.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Shameless Self-Promotion: A Double Whammy

This week I've had two articles go up on An all time record. Ha! One on a great organization we've worked with at SVG called Compassion for Migrant Children and another on some Bluegrass Musicians from, of all places, Inner Mongolia!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Finds: Dusty Chinese antiques

It's hard to find real finds in Shanghai. There are so many people that inevitably a few million or so have already traversed every path. But the Shanghai Mu Lan Hua Ge Jia Ju Li Curio Co. just might be one of those places.

It's a loosely walled warehouse in Pudong (East of the Huangpu river) just off Line 8 (Linzhao Xin Cun Stop) with an inexhaustible supply of mosquitoes and old Chinese furniture that is literally stacked to the ceiling. Along with knick-nacks (sp?), glassware, old cameras, etc etc etc.

The prices weren't dirt cheap, but they were really decent the more we bought and bargained. (I told the manager I didn't want the "good friend price" but the price he'd give his mother...humor also helps with bargaining.)

I went with a couple of friends and we got thoroughly dusty and bitten, but we found some cool artifacts, the ages of which I have absolutely no clue. I'm hoping I can find an antiques expert of some sort to take out there and thus have some fodder for my next article!

(I included the business card below.)

Monday, October 4, 2010

Kitchening: Peanut Butter & Pumpkin Brownies

A little while back I bought a Queensland blue pumpkin which was so pretty, but not to pretty to break open (with a machete). I never buy puree of pumpkin anymore. It's expensive here and pumpkins are always available, though the Queensland blue was a special find from the organic farm I sometimes order from.  Anyway. What you really want is that recipe I mentioned a little while back. Pumpkin, peanut butter, and chocolate all swirled into an slightly unusual but very hard to stop eating brownie. The recipe was on Natalie's Killer Cuisine which is a slightly ominous title.

The cool thing about this recipe is that you make a master batter, divide it into three and then flavor it with the pumpkin, PB, and chocolate.

Peanut Butter & Pumpkin Brownies

2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup sugar
4 eggs
1 Tbs vanilla extract
1 cup butter
6 oz chocolate (semisweet or any kind that melts)
1 1/4 cup pumpkin puree
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 cup peanut butter (I used some homemade pb and it worked great)
Chocolate Chips, optional

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Photos of the most beautiful day of the year

I seem to go on posting sprees, so maybe you should just take all these one day at a time because I'm likely to slow down again at any time. But I wanted to share some pictures with you since my roommates are off camping in a typhoon and I haven't talked to anyone face to face in over 24 hours--not that I'm complaining. The weather has been beautiful today because of said typhoon which cooled the temperature down by 20 degrees since Monday.

I stayed inside for most of the past two days working and drinking tea with the cool, crisp breezes blowing in, but I just had to catch the afternoon light on my bike this afternoon.

I ended up finding  so much good stuff. I clearly have not explored the area enough. On the list of discoveries today--The old Shanghai Waterworks with beautiful brick buildings circa 1920s. Doors were closed so I'm planning to go back. Also lots of construction, not that exciting except for the sheer mass of yellow cranes. 

Then on my way home I found an old alley with a herd of half torn down old buildings--sad but still beautiful in their deterioration. It was mostly dark by the time I found it so I'm planning to go back there too in the daylight and take some better pictures.

My favorite one for the day. I love all the lines of machinery.

The old houses. There were people living in the buildings on either side of this one. Man.

Zhong which is 'middle' in Chinese. Not sure what it's the middle of--just saw it on the door of a construction site.

See what I mean about the beautiful day and the cranes?

And a brick wall. I's not that original to take pictures of brick walls, but isn't it cool cause there are Chinese characters in the picture too?