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 translation...my 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 abilities...so 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 week...my 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 up...best 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 it...it'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.