Less blog, and moar blog

Photo by chrysics | www.flickr.com/photos/chrysics
Photo by chrysics | http://www.flickr.com/photos/chrysics

It’s ironic that I wrote a post about whether blogging could be a hobby for Research Whisperer, professed my love of blogging, and yet I haven’t posted here since mid-February!

The issue I discussed in the RW post was: if you’re blogging about work topics, and the blog profile adds to professional gravitas, can it actually be a hobby? Hobby implies something you do in your leisure time, not ‘work’. My lines were blurred, and have always been in academia. It’s a common problem.

The first thing I drop when I’m under the gun for other blog deadlines is this one. My personal and first blog.

I recently deleted a whole heap of posts from this blog. I had used this blog as a repository for AASRN-type info and updates for quite a few years, before the network developed into having its own identity and social media outlets. Even as I hit ‘delete’ on mass-selected posts, I was wondering whether I’d regret it.

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Sewing – in a holding pattern

Cool + disconcerting (Photo by Tseen Khoo)
Cool + disconcerting (Photo by Tseen Khoo)

Since Oanh has immersed herself in sewing, and I’m surrounded by adept crafters on Twitter (looking at you, @meganjmcpherson @deborahbrian @kyliebudge @amieoshea), I’ve experienced a renaissance in sewing interest.

It makes learning and doing all new things feel much more do-able when savvy advice is on hand at just about any waking hour.

I’ve become a person who browses fabric and feels clothes to work out what material they’re made of (still not good at this because I’m only on a first name basis with a very narrow range of them). I also turn sleeves and hems around to see how they’re done, and to work out whether I could do it (current track-record is flagging a ‘no’…).

Our fabric pile is building. Being a texture-freak, with a hoarding habit that extends to kitchenware (particularly Japanese) and stationery, this is a road that poses dangers for domestic space and bank accounts.

So, what have we done since you were treated to the pic-post of PJ Birdy?

Masquerade capes, tunics, and masks!


Crowded kitchens

Mum's sayor lodeh (Photo by Tseen Khoo)
Mum’s sayor lodeh (Photo by Tseen Khoo)

I take my family’s kitchen skills for granted.

I forget how much food and cooking knowledge I’ve gained purely through osmosis, and watching others do their thing.

Like many Malaysian Chinese families (or Asian families more generally?), we’ve always been big on feasting and special occasion meals. Wisely, my siblings and I also snagged partners who were similarly appreciative of sharing food and making meals meaningful.

My mum and dad have always been keen cooks, and my mum has taken formal cooking classes in a broad range of cuisines. She takes on the lion’s share of the household’s dinners, and we have a family dinner every Sunday night. Her collection of cookbooks is formidable, and it includes a lot of bilingual 1960s/70s books from Malaysia. Once upon a time, we used to have regular dinners for 40 or more people at our Brisbane house in Chapel Hill. It wasn’t that large a house, and the 1970s kitchen from which she and my dad produced massive feasts was tiny + very badly designed.

My brother is a chef; he’s been in the hospitality industry for over 20 years. He has worked at a whole range of restaurants, bistros, and cafes – in Brisbane, Melbourne, and around the UK. He’s currently in his cheffing dream job, one that allows him to get home in the afternoon so he can focus on gardening and having a life outside the industry. That said, he’s an obsessive breadmaker (and loves experimenting with sourdough and ciabatta), and loves crossing the back fence to bring us samples. This is a practice we encourage. Greatly.

My SIL is a qualified chef. Of course. She introduced us to the seductions of whole cauliflower mornay and excellent coleslaw. She joins my brother in culinary adventures, not to mention the incredible food hampers we are privileged to get every Christmas. C. also writes a food blog and has overall mad kitchen skills.

My husband is a great cook, he’s the obsessive genius behind our family’s novelty cake series. He’s the kind of person who can turn his hand to anything and, with vague instructions from the internet, make it a success. His Christmas puddings have all been excellent (traditional plum pudding, as well as chocolate), and I remember very fondly the meals he cooked for me when we were dating. They were fab, and – strangely enough – seemed inspired by 1970s Women’s Weekly cookbooks (e.g. beef stroganoff, prawn cocktails).

Why am I telling you all this?


Toy making

In a September post, Needle and thread, I talked about our household tendency to dabble in hobbies. I mentioned the instance of “PJ Birdy”, a stuffed bird we made that rolls into a ball. From the name, you can probably guess what the ostensible use of the bird is: to store a kid’s (small) pyjamas.

In lieu of a full text post, this week I’m offering a pictorial record of PJ Birdy, to assist Oanh with her visualisation (so important) and to remember a time when we made toys for fun.

As mentioned previously, it was the first time we’d made this particular pattern, so we bought really cheap and somewhat ugly material.

Our reasoning was that if it turned out badly, at least we didn’t spend too much money on it. Because it turned out relatively well, though, we thought we wouldn’t tempt fate and try to make it again…

PJ Birdy in 5 photos

Genealogy of cake

Cakeworld hardware (Photo by Tseen Khoo)

Regular readers of this blog – and people who know me IRL – will know that my family’s obsessed with food in general, and cake decoration in particular.

I’ve previously posted photos of (mostly) my partner’s work in the novelty cake department (see HERE and HERE).

What I haven’t talked about is my mother’s devotion to sugar-art and cake-decorating for a couple of decades when we were younger. And she was younger, and her hands steadier.

Her toolkit of icing implements is still here, fully tricked out with all the nozzle sizes and shapes for piping that you could desire – all metal, and to be screwed into old-school icing bags. She’s still got the coloured twine and wires that were for the miniature icing flowers she’d make by hand. There are even beaded stalks that are meant be flower styles or stamens.

For most of the 1980s and part of the 1990s, my mother was the go-to person in our clan for engagement, 21st and special birthday cakes. I think she may have done a wedding cake here or there as well.


Needle and thread

Good nights (Photo by Tseen Khoo)

Recently, Unique Schmuck posted about an ignited sewing fetish, which was accompanied by an obsession with patterns.

I love it when people get struck by various hobby bugs. We’ve had enough of them in our household, including brief but extremely time-consuming dalliances with stamp collecting, soap making, cross-stitch (me), welding (S.), papercraft/origami (me again), and the enduring one for our family of novelty cake-decoration.

We also sewed. For a short time.


Cake update – 2008-2010

It has been quite a few years since I wrote this post in 2008 and presented a round-up of the novelty cakes that our family had done. Four and a half years later, the tradition is still going strong.

I’m updating the cake pics, and these ones take us through the tail end of 2008 to 2010, and I’m only including those that have novelty aspects and were made by S.

Click on the cut for the rest of the pic-heavy post!