Friday, January 31, 2014

{Five for Friday} 5 Favorite Chinese New Year Traditions

Happy Chinese New Year!

I haven't celebrated Chinese new year (CNY) in Singapore in 17 years, so it feels like my last memory of it is from different lifetime. Chinese new year was the biggest holiday of my childhood. My family didn't celebrate Christmas, but we always had the lunar new year to look forward to. In many ways, preparing for all the hustle and bustle of the new year is no different from preparing for Christmas. There's always lots to do, buy, and cook.

Here are my 5 favorite new year traditions from my childhood:

** Reunion dinner. On the eve of CNY, the family would gather at my grandparents' house for dinner. My paternal grandparents had 9 kids (5 sons, 4 daughters), so that meant a lot of cousins to goof off with. My grandparents would set up an elaborate feast where every food item symbolized something auspicious. I sat at the kids' table with my cousins for 16 years.

** New pajamas/new clothes. New year, new beginnings, new clothes. After we've had our reunion dinner, we'd shower and put on a set of new pajamas. I love pajamas and my mom always got me fun ones. This is also the only time of the year she would splurge on pretty dresses and matching new shoes for me. As a little girl, I was thrilled by all the frills!

** Cookies. There are always tons of cookies to eat, especially since my mom was making them to sell! Pineapple tarts, cashew cookies, and "love letters." Yum, yum, and more yums. I've never attempted to make my own since my mom and dad still take the trouble to send them to me.

** The CNY countdown show. There is the strange believe that the later you go to bed on CNY eve, the longer your parents will live. So that would be the one night of the year I tried to stay up for as long as mom and dad would let me. We'd usually turn on the TV and watch the countdown show. Lots of singing and dancing, lots of fortune telling and tips on how to improve the year ahead. I grew to love the tradition of watching the countdown.

** Plants. Take a hike, Christmas trees! For CNY, my mom would decorate vases filled with tall branches of pussy willows. I'd help her to hang the red and gold ornaments. Sometimes she'd also grow some arrowroot plants in these huge porcelain bowls.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

CNY eve

It's Chinese New Year eve. We're having a quiet night, and ushering the new year in with some homemade gyoza and stir-fried leeks. Tomorrow, we'll celebrate and feast with Corrinne and her family. I can't wait! :)

In the meantime, here's a video too beautiful not to share.


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Blackberry Jam

A couple of days ago, I stumbled onto this clever video (narrated by the brilliant food journalist, Michael Pollan) that talked about the importance of cooking your own food (as opposed to eating processed food). His diet tip? Make your own junk food. Just think about it: how often are you going to want to bake your own Oreo cookie, deep fry some french fries, or churn your own ice-cream? Probably not very much.

In that very same spirit, Zach and I decided to make our own blackberry jam over the weekend. We made strawberry, raspberry, and mixed berry jam last summer but we never tried our hand at blackberry. So since they were on sale at the store this week, we bought ourselves 17 boxes and went to work.

Canning is a tedious process especially when you're working in a small kitchen like ours. But, the thing is, you always forget about the hard work when you have those gorgeous jars of jam at the end of the day. In sub-zero temperature days, these pretty jewel-tone jams remind us of the warm days of summer!

And then you immediately start thinking about your next canning project ...

Monday, January 27, 2014

Food and Flags

Have you seen these before?

Flags made up of food! It got me wondering what the Singapore flag should consist of. It's primary red on the top and white below, with a crescent moon and five stars on the top left corner. Singapore is a foodie nation, so it's pretty important to pick foods that are representative of the diverse food culture. I could only come up with adzuki beans for the red, and glutinous rice for white. Boring.

(images via Twisted Sifter)

Sunday, January 26, 2014

oh...hello cat

the sketchbook project extended their deadline.  and well.  mindy bought an extra book this year that we didn't get to.  so with the extra week in hand, we illustrated, colored and mailed it in with the intention of turning the pages into a short film.

sketchbook project animation

this weekend i finally finished the animation and soundtrack.  the results are a fun little pointless story about a day in the life a cat.  our cat is the star, i illustrated, mindy colored, then i animated all the scenes.   it is titled:


it's 6 minutes long, so grab a snack, click the full screen, sit back and relax for a few minutes.  enjoy!

Recipe of the Week: The Best Clam Chowder (You'll Ever Make At Home)

mindy and i loved our time in maine this summer. and we needed a reminder. so we decided to give clam chowder a go. while in maine, we bought marjorie standish's cooking down east, so i figure her recipe is probably as good as any to start with. it was a great recipe. according to mindy, it's the best clam chowder you'll ever make at home. but then we had a couple of challenges. my first issue:  indiana.  where to get fresh little neck clams?  luckily we found some 'on ice' clams at our local grocery store.  but they were GIANT and i don't know how fresh they were, but it was our only option in indiana.  so in the grocery cart they went.

1 quart of fresh clams (keep as much juice as you can)
4 slices of bacon
1 onion diced
4 cups of chopped potatoes
1 cup of water
salt and pepper
2 tbsp flour
1 1/2 quarts of milk
1 tbsp butter

first, cook bacon in a dutch oven until crispy.  

remove it, and brown the onions in the bacon fat.  coat the onions with the flour.  

then add the potatoes and water.  add salt and pepper to taste.  

bring to a boil.  reduce heat and cover.  
cook 15 mins or until the potatoes are soft.  
prep clams by chopping them into smaller chunks (best to do it by part).  the ones we bought were a bitch to work with.  they were frozen so i had to steam them open, so some parts got a bit tough.  but we'll chalk it up to not living on the coast.

once the potatoes are soft, throw in the cut clams, cover and cook for 3 more minutes.  
add the milk and the butter, turn off the heat and allow to cool slowly. 

put it in the refrigerator over night to allow the flavors to work together.  
reheat slowly at a low temperature, add thyme, top with crumpled up bacon and serve.  with oyster crackers, if you like.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

the return of the Polar Vortex

The dreaded Polar Vortex has returned! We are too cold to go out to play, so we decided it'd be nice to just huddle up at home and get some work done.

What do you have planned for the weekend? Does it involve something warm or some place sunny? If you'd like some music to go with whatever you're doing, here's Lisa Hannigan and James Vincent McMorrow live in concert. Can someone tell me what is it about Irish singer-songwriters that make them so awesome? :)

Friday, January 24, 2014

{Five for Friday} 5 Favorite Childhood Cartoons

saturday morning cartoons are as much a part of growing up as learning to walk.  the memories of sitting in the saturday morning sunlight watching cartoons after breakfast is something everyone who grew up with a television shares.  when mindy and i started discussing our favorites, it was amusing to find we have some of the same. but for the sake of this post, we decided to choose 10 different ones.

here's our lists ... check them out if you need something to brighten this cold winter day ... 


G.I. Joe:


Garfield and Friends:

Captain Planet:

Scooby Doo:

Mindy's list of favorites ...


Care Bears:

Masters of the Universe:

Gummy Bears:

Duck Tales:

Thursday, January 23, 2014

One Sentence

In yesterday's post, I talked about having (or not having) a neck for telling stories ... What if you had to tell a story in just one sentence? Can you do it? 

These people did just that!

If you'd like to read more, go to this site! You can even submit your own if you have a story to share!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

different strokes for different folks

Zach's mom tells us that she only has to read the first sentence of each post to know who wrote it. And she's right. Zach and I have very distinct styles of writing. Zach is a storyteller. He is descriptive and colorful, and has a way of putting readers right where the action is.  That is why I love it when Zach blogs when we travel. I go back and read old posts about our trips and I remember everything like they happened yesterday!

I, on the other hand, am less of a storyteller. I blame it on all the boring academic writing I've been trained to do. I can tell a good story, but I can't write one. So instead, I take most of the pictures you see on this blog. A picture's worth a thousand words, right?

Monday, January 20, 2014


The Sketchbook Project extended its dateline so Zach is hard at work finishing the last book we have. He decided to do another animated project, this time based on the cat. He drew, and I colored. Each page features a different scene from the cat's perspective, like jumping on the bed, playing in the garden, and fighting the feral cat outside. Check out some of the pages ...

letter blocks say what? blog

letter blocks say what? blog

letter blocks say what? blog
this looks just like Zach, except without a hat!
letter blocks say what? blog
this is me! I requested for a short-sleeved heart-print a-line dress with bright blue mary janes!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Recipe of the Week: Garbanzo Beans with Kale and Sausage

For the new year, we are trying to cook at least one fish dish and one bean dish a week. It is easy to find delicious fish recipes. It is a lot more challenging to find bean dishes that are not soup or chili recipes. So I decided to be proactive and come up with something easy and nutritious. This is it. Garbanzo beans, carrots, apple cider vinegar, and kale are some of the best things you can eat. And just to balance all that goodness out, I included hot Italian sausage (because what good's super foods if they are not tasty and you don't want to eat them?!!). Ha!

1 15oz can of garbanzo beans
1 15oz can tomato sauce
1 lb hot Italian sausage
2 cups kale, torn into little pieces
1 carrot, diced
1 small onion, diced
6 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp paprika
1 tsp chili pepper flakes (optional)
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
salt and pepper, to taste

In a large saute pan, cook onions, garlic, carrots, and sausage thoroughly.

Stir in tomato sauce, brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, and garbanzo beans.
Add oregano, cumin, paprika, chili pepper flakes, salt, and pepper.
Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes.
Stir in kale; cook through.

Serve hot with rice.

Friday, January 17, 2014

{Five for Friday} 5 Artists

5 of the artists whose work i've been drawn to at different times.  ok so when i look at art i'm not big on subject matter or style.  i'm mostly interested in 'how did the artist use the media.'  i look at the lightness or heaviness of brush strokes or construction methods.  i try to understand what the artist was trying to understand when i look at the physical remnant of time taken to explore an idea.  i wouldn't say that these artists inspire me.  i would say that i found similarities in what i was/am doing in the methods and techniques i saw them using.

1. matisse ... when i first started drawing when i was in my early 20s matisse was one of the first artists i was interested in.  i liked how his cartoonish black outlines still read as real people in real atmosphere, even though they were so crudely drawn.

matisse at the MoMA

2. picasso ... more accurately the 'picasso-style'...again when i first started drawing, i was taken with the way picasso could rearrange an image and still make it legible.  i loved the profile/ 3/4 combos he created.

3. rauschenburg ... assemblage. the use of media and construction made sense in my brain.  i like his color palette too.

rauschenberg, charlene

4. flavin ... interestingly enough i would say flavin is one minimalist i really enjoy and i would say that they way he used light to transform a space, made me rethink the idea of how i show the things i make.  i started looking at installation art and getting into the idea of audience experience and seeing how flavin's fluorescents could manipulate a space beyond themselves.

dan flavin, blue intensity

5. the clayton brothers ... saw a show of their work at the madison museum of contemporary art a couple of years ago.  their 'play house' constructions were right up my alley.

clayton brothers at the madison museum of art

Thursday, January 16, 2014

sketchbook project 2014: cozy kitty

My Sketchbook Project for 2014 is very similar to my project for 2013. It's about our cat again. I cut, collaged, glued, printed, and colored. Here are some of my creations:

letter blocks say what

letter blocks say what

letter blocks say what

letter blocks say what

letter blocks say what

letter blocks say what

linocut block print kitty cat

And maybe it's because I was working on my book during the Polar Vortex, I got inspired to include the cold,

letter blocks say what

and dress some of the kitties up in sweaters!

linocut block print kitty cat

linocut block print kitty cat

linocut block print kitty cat

So this is my book for 2014. I'm not sure I'll be doing another one for 2015. There are already two similar books, i don't think I need to do a third! ;)

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...