Made by you and I

Beach Is Beautiful — and a favor

sunset

Yesterday was the first day of spring and we took a drive down the eastern coast from Kanagawa to Shizuoka stopping along the way, near sunset, to take photos — I love sunsets. (Sunrises happen too early for me.)  ;)

In Photoshop I recently learned how to use the custom filter (filter –> other –> custom), working out how to design my own filter to add grain into my images. It’s kinda like cooking: I know there’s a ready-made filter to add grain, but it just feels more satisfying to make your own, if you know what I mean. :) So enjoy these pics.

I’m also posting to ask for help. As I mentioned in my last post, I’m now learning InDesign. I do want to use it to format my recipes as nifty pages you all can download with a click. But how to format? As many cookbooks as I’ve read I draw a blank every time think to sketch out a design. I was hoping you could link to, or in other ways suggest recipes whose look you liked — not the recipe itself, but how it was presented on the page. I’ve been working my way through online magazines and Pintrest to get a feel for what I like but it’s as important to learn what other people consider good design, too.

If you don’t mind, let me know in the comments. m(_ _)m

Have a  great week, everyone! :)

beach view from the garden on the beach with a dog graiiny view boat beach from cliffsunset

Hug your local graphic designer

roasted peppers

I’ve been learning InDesign. If every anyone told you Photoshop had a learning curve, InDesign has been more of a sheer wall of rock in the rain.

I’m not complaining. By using InDesign I can see just how much of our world is preplanned. Fonts are a great example. How many of you ever stop to notice what font you’re reading, it’s color, placement on a surface, its spacing? Do you want to gleam the forethought that goes into our modern world — InDesign is a great tool to show you.

After two weeks of reading about fonts — Two weeks and nowhere near done — I started working on grids and — wow. All I can say is hug the next graphic designer you meet.

I thought I’d share what I made so far. It’s far from good but I’m proud of myself for working out the grids. :)

I thought a food pic would grab your attention.

I thought a food pic would grab your attention.

peppers and other tests7

Actually, I really hate this layout. I drew graphics for several tiny placeholders but I wasn’t satisfied and went with onion and shallots instead — oh, and these fonts c l a s h.

peppers and other tests4

Copy is hard. It might not look like it, but those little text blocks are comprised of a lot of words. Thankfully they have placeholder text. Those are my babies working hard, btw.

Word Press just reminded me how lazy I am

When I started this blog just over a year ago I created an overview of posts and topics I wanted to cover and scheduled them to automatically publish to motivate me though them. The are/were largely unfinished recipes without photos,and that first batch just automatically published.

So I’m at my desk conniving ways to avoid the gym when my phone starts to send me alerts to WordPress.

It took me a few minutes to work out what happened — and, in a panic, work out how to undo everything.

Well, I’m feeling as round as this picture at the moment, so away from my computer, but first!

How do I avoid thee, gym, let me count the ways.
I avoid thee to the depth and breadth and height
My belly can reach, with feet out of sight.

I avoid thee to the level my moobs droop
Most quietly needing support under shirt.

I avoid thee freely, as I thrive at night.
I avoid thee purely, as I turn towards glazed –.
donuts.

I avoid thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I avoid thee with a weight I can’t lose
in tight torn pants. I avoid thee out of breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,
I shall avoid thee even better tomorrow.

— modernized Elizabeth Barrett Browning, ladies and gentlemen!

 

edit-2104 copy2

Fisheyes

One of my favorite purchases has been my Sigma 4.5mm fisheye. I take it with me as part of my kit and try to shoot with it to see what I can do — and when it’s good, it’s very good.

But what to do with all these round images?

Here are a few different ways I’ve found to express my content with the fisheye. These are from a theme park in Noboribetsu, an Edo style village. In one location are mannequins set up to approximate the way people in the Edo period used to live. Seeing the actual dimensions with figures really brought that world to life in my mind.

The entrance to this part of the park.

The entrance to this part of the park.

 

A side view of one of the houses.

A side view of one of the houses.

 

Apparently the fad existed several hundred years ago, too.

Apparently the tattoo fad existed several hundred years ago, too.

 

Many people practiced a craft and both lived and worked in their home.

Many people practiced a craft and both lived and worked in their home.

 

A fishmonger in Edo. Imagine living where you're working now.

Fisheyes? A fishmonger in Edo. Imagine living where you’re working now.

 

 

A little drama from comedy

-201502095 mmISO 1001525_0008_Layer 7

I have been learning exponentially. I can’t explain it, but I’ve hit a new groove which has given me confidence behind the camera.

Theater

 

These photos will not appear on WordPress as they appear to me because WordPress flattens out the color space from the larger ProPhoto I use on my computer to sRGB. It’s heartbreaking because the colors as they should appear are richer and more weighted. So, I invite you to check out my Flicker page to see these, and other, as I intended them to be seen.

Japanese princess

 

ninja attack

 

Japanese sword

 

ninja fight

 

ninja sneak attack

 

attendants to the princess

 

 

experiments with color

 

 

Kabuki

 

 

So as you see, I’ve been learning loads. I’m actively studying composition and creating experiments so that I can better understand color. Your feedback really does help me learn. Tell me what you think.

 

 

 

 

 

Whisky for breakfast — the Yoichi Distillery

whisky for breakfast

I mentioned in my last post that I’ve taken up drinking as a new hobby. Let me explain.

The best of the whiskies I tried while in Hokkaido. I also loved their peat version, which was nothing like it's Irish cousins.

The best of the whiskies I tried while in Hokkaido. I also loved their peat version, which was nothing like it’s Irish cousins.

For Christmas a friend sent me the book The 12 Bottle Bar. Christmas puts me in a shopping mood and I was looking for something new in 2015, so I got it into my head that I need those 12 bottles.

Mission complete, I mixed a few drinks a night, tasting things along the way. One of the first surprises was Vermouth. I’ve been using it in my cooking since I was in high school, but I’ve never drunk it. I encourage you to taste the vermouth from a FRESHLY opened bottle. The flavors are herbal and somewhat floral. I was stunned. Vermouth isn’t the kind of thing I’m going to have a glass of, but alcohol has it’s own palate of flavors I’d never taken the time to pay attention to.

So drinking is a meditative practice. ;)

My drawing of the Nikka distillery entrance in Yoichi

My drawing of the Nikka distillery entrance in Yoichi

 

When I was looking for rye whisky (to complete my bar) I came across a bottle of Coffey Whisky which I misread as Coffee Whisky. “What’s this?”, I thought and pulled up an online review on my iPad. What I read convinced me I needed to try this with soda and, OMG, it was better than a glass of wine.

Not really a bar, but one of the two tasting stations. This one you pay for but can chose from a long list of whiskies from all over the world. It was a great opportunity to try one ounce shots of very expensive whiskies.

Not really a bar, but one of the two tasting stations. This one you pay for but can chose from a long list of whiskies from all over the world. It was a great opportunity to try one ounce shots of very expensive whiskies.

I read on that Japanese whiskeys are made to be diluted as Nikka’s Coffey Whisky most certainly is. Neat, it doesn’t deliver it’s flavor profile but thinning it out with water brought forth fruits and woods while subduing all the harshness in a hard liquor. An online review equated it with the complexity of wine and I have to agree.

When I like something I read up on it. Liking this whisky I read up on Nikka and found out that their distillery was in Hokkaido, not far from where I’d be for the Snow Festival, so I decided to pay a visit — and I’m so very glad I did.

A detail of one of the ovens in the museum.

A detail of one of the ovens in the museum.

I left by bus from Sapporo to Yoichi, a 2-hour trip, with my morning Starbucks in hand. I arrived without having eaten breakfast and by eleven I was in their very busy bar sampling a variety of whiskies  produced by Nikka for what you might call a very Irish breakfast.

Before December 2014, if I drank six pack of beer within a year, that was heavy consumption. For breakfast I had five glasses of whisky and an apple brandy. It was a very good morning. Very good. :)

Young people playing in the snow at their school.

Young people playing in the snow at their school.

Theres’s more to this story I want to share with you soon. Something I didn’t expect to find. I’ll try to write about it soon.

One of the store rooms where they keep the casks. Very low lighting.

One of the store rooms where they keep the casks. Very low lighting.

Hokaido Snow Festival

Everyone loved this. I thought I'd show you another taken during the day.

I really did and do intend to blog — really, really, really I do — but I get distracted easily.

(Squirrel!)

I’ve been studying Photoshop through Lynda.com tutorials and when I found out about the Pen Tool, well, lets just say it opened up new possibilities. I can draw in Photoshop now and with my nifty new stylus and pressure pad I’m teaching myself how to paint. Consequently, I’ve been in the kitchen once since the new year to cook. It’s been all tofu, all the time in my kitchen. (Wanna a quick recipe? Take cotton style tofu [momen], wrap it in a towel and put a weight on in to press out the water. and fry it with some veggies, marinade it in some kind of flavorful liquid, or add a drizzle of soy sauce and a sprinkle of chopped green onion and some grated ginger. Voila!)

The Snow Festival is features very large sculptures created by the Japanese military. Because Star Wars Episode 7 will be released this year, they created this beautifully detailed version I took at sunset.

The Snow Festival is features very large sculptures created by the Japanese military. Because Star Wars Episode 7 will be released this year, they created this beautifully detailed version I took at sunset.

From February 3rd I went to Hokkaido for ten days to see the Sapporo Snow Festival; my new hobby is drinking (long story for another post) and so I also went to the Nikka Distillery; and if you’re in Hokkaido you have to ski and go to onsen — pics of all of that in time. I wanted to touch base before getting absorbed back into Lynda.com, so even though I want to keep a cooking blog you’re going to have to settle for pics for now. ;)

This is hand drawn and painted. It's my interpretation of the skyline from Sapporo Tower.

This is hand drawn and painted, not a photo. It’s my interpretation of the skyline from Sapporo merged with a non existent sea — I love technology.

The Snow Festival contains smaller ice sculptures paid for by sponsors, in the is case the forth coming Hokkaido Shinkansen (aka bullet train).

The Snow Festival contains smaller ice sculptures paid for by sponsors, in the is case the forth coming Hokkaido Shinkansen (aka bullet train).

Individual groups or clubs can also contribute snow or ice sculptures. This is a bust of a Korean pop star.

Individual groups or clubs can also contribute snow or ice sculptures. This is a bust of a Korean pop star.

And there are several entertainments, one of which is this snowboard and ski slop on which professionals show off their tricks all day long.

And there are several entertainments, one of which is this snowboard and ski slop on which professionals show off their tricks all day long.

They also feature reliefs at the snow festival. In this case one paid for by the local horse racing association.

They also feature reliefs at the snow festival. In this case one paid for by the local horse racing association.

You may not smoke in Sapporo's city streets, and especially in the parks housing the sculptures. To accommodate everyone they set up closed smoking rooms behind ice walls like this one.

You may not smoke in Sapporo’s city streets, and especially in the parks housing the sculptures. To accommodate everyone they set up closed smoking rooms behind ice walls like this one.

Many of the larger statues have a stage on which performers sing and dance. After hours a laser and/or light show projects onto the sculptures. My pictures of this after hours don't do it justice, but know it comes alive with the right lighting image projections.

Many of the larger statues have a stage on which performers sing and dance. After the sun sets a laser and/or light show projects onto the sculptures. My pictures of these after hours shows don’t do it justice, but know these all come alive at night with lighting and image projections.

Everyone loved this. I thought I'd show you another taken during the day.

Everyone loved this. I thought I’d show you another taken during the day.

Happy New Year — I’ve missed you all!

untitled-1013January 01, 201550 mmISO 100

Fist off, I started this blog a year ago today — time flies.

I need to apologize for the unintended absence. For my birthday (on October 6th) ANA sent me a special promotion which I used to take an unscheduled, unplanned, always needed two-week vacation. When I came back I had essays up the kazoo to grade and, by chance, there was opening for a promotion.

I wanted the promotion.

I needed to prepare for the test (the first step in the application process), then for three successive interviews. I made it to the third and final group interview, but I didn’t get the job. That was at the end of November.

I sulked through most of December before getting in holiday mode — cooking, shopping, planning, and getting all my work done as our third year students graduate.

Excuses aside, I’m back. I didn’t mean to take a long holiday. Life happens — and I don’t get paid for this, so priorities. ;)

 

Osetchi, tier one (Japanese foods)

Osetchi, tier one (Japanese foods)



I did have time to consider what my blog means to me in the time I was away. I did start this as a means to reach out and connect with other people who share my passion for cooking and food — all things connected to food and eating. My blog then turned into a photography blog. I tried different ways to separate the two but photography was more fun to post about, however it’s not my real goal. I want to focus on my cooking and so I’m going to keep my photography in Flicker with a few here and there to liven up a given post.

I do love photography, perhaps even more than food. To take pictures and edit them require lots of time. To balance blogging and photography I’m setting a goal to post here once a week. I might post more, but I’d rather post a quality food post that’s informative than several small ones. We’ll see how it works out.

For this first week of the new year I thought I’d post about our New Year’s Osetchi.

Osetchi, tier two (French foods)

Osetchi, tier two (French foods)

Every year I’ve been in Japan for the New Year’s holiday I’ve spent the week it takes to make all the best dishes I can eek out of my kitchen — and it’s expensive. Two years ago I spent the equivalent of 700USD for Osetchi and it’s accompaniments (crab, sashimi, wine, etc). This year I purchased one of the many pre-made osetchi boxes available through department stores. They range in price from 2000USD to a modest 100USD. The food should be enough that it lasts for three days. I went with the Dean & Deluca osetchi box and it was one of the best decisions I’ve made.

Osetchi, tier three (French/Japanese fusion foods)

Osetchi, tier three (French/Japanese fusion foods)

I enjoy Japanese traditional foods (tray one); however, the other two trays of western delicacies blew them away. The duck confit, the home made sausages, the sea urchin mouse and on and on and on were some of the best things I’ve eaten in ages. The beef! I’ve never had beef so tender that it literally begins to melt while chewing.

Ostchi served with sashimi on the first day with soup with oven roasted motchi.

Ostchi served with sashimi on the first day with soup with oven roasted motchi.

So enjoy these photos of my first feast of the New Year and let me know in the comments how you’ve all been doing.

 

The new year in Japan.

On January 2nd the Imperial Family opens the East wing of their palace to the public. While we may not enter their residence we are allowed into the mail courtyard. The family makes an appearance at the window, the Emperor makes a short speech, and they all wave. It’s my first time attending — I’ve never been to a more crowded place in all my life (I’m tall enough to see just how crowded it was). These are a few photos I took at the event.

The Imperial family and their well wishers.

The Imperial family and their well wishers.

The second bridge across the moat leading into the palace, visible only twice a year.

The second bridge across the moat leading into the palace, visible only twice a year.

Photo of a photo of the people in the Imperial courtyard.

When one becomes a multitude.

New Year is one of the few times in the year when the Japanese flag is displayed nationally.

New Year is one of the few times in the year when the Japanese flag is displayed nationally.

During the first three days of the new year it is auspicious to visit a shrine or a temple. While there one purchases symbols for luck.

During the first three days of the new year it is auspicious to visit a shrine or a temple. While there one purchases symbols for luck.

...or hires the temple priests to say prayers over you. (The entry to that part of the shrine is off limits to all but family. This is the entry).

…or hires the temple priests to say prayers over you. (The entry to that part of the shrine is off limits to all but family. This is the entry).

Of course the shrines and temples are never more crowded than during the new year season.

Of course the shrines and temples are never more crowded than during the new year season.

Two Views

One of two castles in Nagasaki. Points if you know which one.

One of two castles in Nagasaki. Points if you know which one.

Two views from up top and one from down below.
One gives you something to aspire to,
The others show your reach.

The northern view of the sea. My hotel is down there.

The northern view of the sea. My hotel is down there.

The southern view from the top of the castle. It's pouring rain.

The southern view from the top of the castle. It’s pouring rain. (of course).

Come say Happy Birthday!

I was tall for my age.  And since both my parents were around five foot, my dad demanded a paternity test early on. ;)

As a teen I was swarthy and already six-foot by junior high school. I easily got into R-rated movies and, even though underage, in high school I could buy beer, something which greatly expanded my social circles.

Then sometime in my early twenties looking older was no longer a boon. I wanted to look young and with the magic words, “I am” I could be five to ten years older or younger without a second glance. The trick works even better the other way. I simply ask, with a slightly incredulous tone, “well, how old do you think I am?”. The answer can shave 10 – 15 years off without any cosmetic expense.

birthday cake

For decades I’ve made a game out of hiding my age, so much so that no one believes me when I tell them the truth. So how old am I? Well, I just celebrated my 152nd birthday.

The game started when I turned 26. I had the baker write Happy Anniversary instead of Happy Birthday, put a large candle in the shape of the numerals ’25’ and celebrated the anniversary of my 25th birthday. That party started a tradition of celebrating the anniversary of whatever year I wanted to celebrate — until this year.

I’m quite serious when I tell people I’m going to live well into my 100’s. My mom had me at 40; my dad was 52. My aunts and uncles on both sides died well into their 70’s, some lingering on into their 90’s even though they all ate horrifically rich foods, drank heavily, smoked, and were stressed into heart disease and ulcers. I’ve had none of that. I’ve always eaten healthily, almost never drink, can’t even handle the smell of tobacco and have zero stress in my life. If I can avoid accents I’ve got the nature and nurture to live to be at least 150 — and, with medical science progressing as it has, I truly believe that I will.

So from this year I decided to celebrate my future birthdays, perhaps those I might not have and so I had the baker put this on my cake and had a couple of fantastic birthday parties this year. (Why limit yourself to one?)

So here is to me this year and for many, many, many, many years after.

I walked into the classroom to find this "portrait" of me on the white board.Not bad for. . .

, I walked into the classroom to find this “portrait” of me on the white board.Not bad for. . . Wait. How old am I really?

Self-Possession in a Garden of Delight

From the orchards in Dejima, Nagasaki.
persimmon tree, black and white adjustment.

persimmon tree, black and white adjustment.

Early this year I walked into my bedroom showered, tired, and ready for bed. Flipped the light. Baby spider was on my pillow. We both looked at each other for a beat. I charged, it JUMPED behind the bed, and I slept in the other room. I am not an arachnophob. Not really. Unnerved. Unsettled. Proof that they live amongst us both fascinates me and puts me on edge and, yes, terrifies me.

Persimmons in the rain

Persimmons in the rain

Walking through Dejima’s orchards and gardens in the rain — umbrella in one hand, camera in the other — I dodged a few spiders perched eye level to me (because no one else walking though is 192cm/6’4″ they can spin their webs lower than I’d like) until I walked face first into one.

Instinct and expectations collided — I am a man, I can not scream!

Grapes with sunbeam.

Grapes with sunbeam.

I shuddered deeply from within, shook my head violently from side to side, managed to drop my shoulder bag on the wet ground and land my camera on top. With one self possessed step forward I practically undulated with complete and total revulsion and fear. I don’t know how I didn’t scream or completely freak out in a dance.

Tomatoes in the garden.

Tomatoes in the garden.

I couldn’t bring myself to pat myself down for a spider check so dropped my umbrella over my camera and calmly walked over to a near by gardner and told what happened. I asked if he wouldn’t mind checking if I missed any “web” on my person.

I was spider free.

persimon tree color version.

persimon tree color version.

I am in awe of what social expectations and a ridged idea of how one thinks they should behave can, thankfully, reign in even the primeval emotions hidden deep, deep within. Remember that the next time you get pissed at someone. ;)

And ladies and gentlemen, that is how I’ve come to post this set of pics from Nagasaki.

Black and white grapes.

From the orchards in Dejima, Nagasaki.

The samurai and the merchant

made with nik filters summer vacation 2014

made with nik filters summer vacation 2014

The day I arrived in Nagasaki the sky was overcast and it rained intermittently throughout the day. My first stop was the temple Sofukuji, then off to Glover House, nearby Chinatown, and finally Dejima, the remains of the only trading port open to Western people during the Edo Era.

photoshopAugust 04, 2014Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5.5 (Macintosh)-27

Today, Dejima is kind of like an ongoing Renaissance faire, only with samurai and merchants trying to keep character despite obligatory photos with iTech and digital cameras. The city of Nagasaki has unearthed, restored or rebuilt the original structures (excavation work is ongoing). Inside these buildings are exhibits explaining how trade enriched — or changed — the people and living standards, along with personal anecdotes from texts written during the era. The whole is really entertaining.

inori, used for brewing tea and cooking

Inori, used for brewing tea and cooking.

water and ladle drawn from a local well

cistern and ladle with water drawn from a local well

Largely vegetarian, Edo era Japanese needed to make concessions for their foreign guests

Largely vegetarian, Edo era Japanese needed to make concessions for their foreign guests

Business was carried out with an abacus and green tea

Business was carried out with an abacus and green tea

Bonsai

Bonsai: The power and potential of a great pine contained.

It's hard to wield a sword when you're smiling

It’s hard to wield a sword when you’re smiling

summer vacation iphone jpegs-500August 04, 20144.12 mmISO 125-2

Kitchen details in a port town during the Edo Era.

summer vacation-1750August 04, 201450 mmISO 4500-2

The merchant would sit behind his abacus and ink and discuss the terms of trade with the captains from ships who were allowed into Japan at the time.

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