Monday, January 30, 2012

Picture Blog #25 : Shadow Art - Darkness At Its Best

by Fred Eerdekens

I covered Light Painting in an earlier post in this Picture Blog series. Let's try Shadow Painting this time.

Very often, shadows are pieces of unintentional artwork that went unnoticed around us. In the case of shadow art, it is an art form where shadows are deliberately cast by a 3D sculpture, creating an artistic image.

Some call it the art of silhouette. I prefer to describe it as 'darkness at its best'.

When the 3D sculpture is presented before you, you cannot imagine how its shadow is going to show up on the wall. It is only when the light comes on, you see an amazing imagination of the artist being 'drawn' on the wall.

Here are some great masterpieces:

by Fred Eerdekens

by Tim Noble and Sue Webster

by Rashad Alakbarov

by Kumi Yamashita

by Tim Noble and Sue Webster

by Shigeo Fukuda

by Rashad Alakbarov

by Tim Noble and Sue Webster

by Kumi Yamashita

by Larry Kagan

by Tim Noble and Sue Webster

by Rashad Alakbarov

by Kumi Yamashita

by Fred Eerdekens

by Shigeo Fukuda

by Kumi Yamashita

by Tim Noble and Sue Webster

by Kumi Yamashita

by Rashad Alakbarov

"Everything that we see is a shadow cast by that which we do not see." (Martin Luther King, Jr.)

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Monday, January 23, 2012

10 Tips to Avoid Festive Bingeing

This is the time to feast, wisely. [Pic]

The feasting has begun.

The Chinese New Year is celebrated over a period of 15 days. Typically, families and businesses arrange for get-togethers over meals. Singapore is a food paradize and it is even more so during festivals. You can expect great indulgence during this festive time. (See "The 15 Days of Lunar New Year")

If you are thinking of not falling prey to binge eating, this article is for you. Read it before your next party.

Spend more quality time with people, not food. [Pic]

10. Do not over prepare

Leftovers are traditionally seen as something good. It means you are wealthy enough to provide, in this case, over-provide. Symbolism aside, if you prepare the right portion, you do not have to decide if the leftovers should go to waste or 'waist'.

9. Get enough rest

Lack of rest can increase your stress level. Typically, a stressed-out person is more inclined towards binge eating. (See "It's Time to Chill Out, Not Stress Out") 

8. Learn to say 'No'

I know, this may cause grandma to be upset. But I am not suggesting that you refuse her offer. You just need to know when to stop and say 'No' when the time comes. If saying 'No' gets too tough, distract and flatter her by asking for her secret recipes. (See "Don't be a People Pleaser")

You are spoilt for choices. Indulge wisely. [Pic]

7. No second helping

During the festive season, you are spoilt for choices. Take your time to sample. Avoid a second helping of your favorite cookies as it usually doesn't stop at two.

6. Don't compensate with exercise

If your strategy is to back up your binge eating with a more rigorous exercise regime, don't. This is likely to make you loath exercise especially if routine exercises don't come naturally or habitually to you.

5. Eat something before you go

Don't spoil your appetite by eating too much before the party. However, don't leave home feeling famished either. Otherwise, you will tend to gobble down the food as soon as you enter the house. Snack on something healthy beforehand.

4. Watch where you station

If you choose to socialize over the serving counter, you are likely to pinch some food between your conversations. Instead, move away and hold your conversation else where. You can always talk about bonsai next to the flower pots or discuss about Picasso near the paintings.

Snack on something healthy before going for a party. [Pic]

3. Be picky

You have so much food but no extra space in the tummy. You need to be selective. Avoid food that you can get at any other time. Pick something special and not something off the supermarket shelves.

2. Focus on people

Not eating everything on the table doesn't mean you are deprived in any way. Focus the celebration on people rather than food. You have had enough poking in Facebook. This is time to catch up with friends and relatives in the real world. (The article on "Are You A Good Conversationalist?" may help you)

1. Eat the right thing

This is too cliche and we can go on and on about what is the right food to eat. In short, eat in moderation and watch your calories. I will just let Dr Aaryan Koura from the Singapore Tan Tock Seng Hospital share more via this video.

May the Dragon Year bring you wealth as well as health !
"When it comes to eating right and exercising, there is no 'I'll start tomorrow'. Tomorrow is disease." (Terri Guillemets)

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Monday, January 16, 2012

Reunion Dinner - Feasting Together

Spring Festival: An important Chinese traditional celebration. [Pic]

Tis the time to greet the spring.

Chinese New Year is also referred to as Lunar New Year (農曆新年) or Spring Festival (春节). It is the most important celebrations according to the Chinese traditions (23 Jan 2012). A reunion dinner (团圆饭) is one of the highlights or should I say, a must, for Chinese New Year celebration.

Reunion dinner brings everyone in the family together. [Pic]

Reunion dinner takes place on the eve (年除夕) of Chinese New Year. Family members who are away from home will make it back in time for the occasion. It is the time for everyone to catch up with each other. This is an important part of the Chinese traditions that helps keep the family bonded. 

The feast is expected to be sumptuous. It is not only for a good time together but also to symbolize a good start of the new year.

Food: Its meaning comes before taste. [Pic]

What to eat?

It is important to include certain symbolic dishes in the reunion dinner.

Symbolization is usually drawn from the name of the dish sounding similar to words that mean good luck, wealth, prosperity and the like.

Dumpling, symbolizes gold ingots. [Pic]

These dishes are pronounced differently in different Chinese dialects. We can expect their significance to vary among the various Chinese dialect groups. Some dishes may also be included because they shape like certain auspiscious items.

Here are some examples:

Fish (鱼,余) - Surplus
Meat balls (圆) - Togetherness
Lettuce (生菜, sang choy 生财 in Cantonese)- Growth in wealth
Bamboo shoots (笋,顺) - Smooth sailing
Sea cucumber (海参, hoy sum 开心 in Cantonese) - Happiness
Green vegetable - Evergreen
Lotus roots (莲,连) - Togetherness
Fresh oyster (生蚝,升豪) - Rising to prosperity
Dried oyster (蚝豉 hou si 好事 in Cantonese) - Good things
Long noodle - Longevity
Black moss (发菜 fatt choy 发财 in Cantonese) - Wealth
Abalone (包余) - Guaranteed abundance
Dumpling (饺子) - Shaped like gold ingots
Shallot (葱,聪)- Wisdom
Celery (芹,勤) - Diligence
Chicken (served whole) - Completeness
Glutinous rice cake or niangao (年糕) - Promotion or progress
Yusheng (鱼生 lohei 捞起 in Cantonese) - Abundance.
(Note: Yusheng is not a traditional dish for reunion dinner but it is definitely a tradition in the making.)

It is fine to finish every dish but one - the fish dish. Some leftover will be intentionally kept aside. This symbolize 'surplus' derived from the Chinese phrase 'nian nian you yu' (年年有余) which literrally means , 'having surplus every year'. 

It is convenient to eat out but not always pleasant. [Pic]

Eat in or out?

It is in the Chinese traditions to be home for the reunion dinner. Nothing beats having dinner at home and truly enjoy the warmth of the family.

However, in this fast-pace modern time, elaborate preparation for the feast is challenging. More people are loving the convenience of eating out. It has become so popular that advanced reservation is highly recommended especially at popular restaurants. In some restaurants in Singapore, diners are given time slots and are expected to complete their meals within the given time.

Yusheng, a tradition in the making. [Pic]

Restaurants are also competing to come up with innovative menus. Dishes are given prosperous sounding name and priced auspisciously, eg. S$388 or S$888. You will never find a reunion dinner package priced at $444. (See Numbers in Chinese culture)

There are only so many families a restaurant can take in at any one time. So, businesses have been quick in coming up with 'takeaway pacakges' giving the best of both worlds. You do not have to dine in a rush with so many strangers around you.  However, this only works if you have sufficient room to accommodate everyone in the family.
Steamboat: An all-time favorite. [Pic]

Cooked dishes or steamboat?

Cooked dishes are wonderful as the ingredients can be prepared in many ways. However, you can only have so may dishes in one meal.

Steamboat (火锅) is a practical alternative to hold a reunion dinner. Everyone can add any imaginable ingredient in the bubbling broth, whipping up every possible combination of good luck and wealth in the soup.

Reunion dinners are being held earlier these days. [Pic]

Literally translated steamboat or huoguo means 'fire pot' in Chinese. It has its name originated from traditional steamboat which uses charcoal fire to heat the pot.

Traditionally, reunion dinner is also known as weilu (围炉) which means circling around the stove. From this, we can imagine how reunion dinner was held during the ancient time.

Traditionally, married daughters are excluded from reunion dinners. [Pic]

Eating with?

Traditionally, children away from home are expected to come back for the dinner. Married daughters will join their husbands and they will return home on the second day of the new year.

In Singapore, (694 km2 / 268 sq mi) nobody lives more than an hour away from another. Married children continue to visit their parents regularly. Given this, the significance of reunion dinner is somewhat reduced to an occasion to feast rather than a time to reunite.

Where possible, parents would want to dine with all their children, son or daughter, married or otherwise. As such, it will not be possible for every family to hold reunion dinner on the eve of the new year. Nowadays, reunion dinner begins a week or two before the actual day.

It is not too early to start feasting now. Happy reunion and wishing you a prosperous Dragon year!

Related articles:

"In the end, life teaches us what is important, and that is family." (Stephen Covey)

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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Beat the Spring Cleaning Blues

If new year spring cleaning is on your to-do list, read on.

Traditionally, spring cleaning (春节大掃除) is done before Chinese New Year to welcome the new season with a clean house. This marks a new beginning with the hope to bring good luck.

The next Chinese New Year is only a couple of weeks away (23 Jan 2012) and there are loads of preparation to do. Traditionally, this is also the time to feel stressed out. With the sight of messy rooms, dusty shelves and unkept Christmas decorations, you just hope that you have another month.

Spring cleaning need not be a hair-pulling time. Take a look at a few pointers below. I hope the list will lessen your stress so that you can welcome the Dragon Year with a jolly mood.

10. Spring cleaning - Outsourced

If for some reasons, you are unable or unwilling to do the chores yourself, consider outsoursing. However, many cleaning companies would have their booking list filled up by now. Note this tip and make your reservation earlier next time.

Reserve spring cleaning service early. [Pic]

9. Spring cleaning - DIY

The tips will be too long to be included here. Just google "spring cleaning tips" and you will find loads of information. The idea here is to work smart and not just work hard.

8. Have a plan

Draw up a plan on what needs to be done. Handle a few items each day and that will prevent a last minute panic attack. Very often, we feel stressed out just thinking about what needs to be done. Getting something done (no matter how little) brings on satisfaction and that helps to motivate you.

7. Have a checklist

In the interest of time, you want to be systematic and save effort. Have a checklist (see example) which you can use every year. Pick tasks based on the amount of time allocated for the day.

Plan spring cleaning tasks and handle
them systematically.

6. Stay healthy

The tendency is to work doubly hard and if possible, into late nights. That is usually not worth the while. You may end up spending more time later nursing yourself back to health. Falling sick during the festive time means missing out all the good food and fun. Don't.

5. Fight procrastination

Tomorrow sometimes never come. No one enjoys spring cleaning (you know anyone who does?) but you have to do what you have to do. Put your acts together and throw your excuses aside. See "Procrastination is Best Left Till Tomorrow".

4. Be disciplined

Ouch! The 'D' word hurts. But you need that in many things and that includes spring cleaning. Many people see 'Discipline' to be a big enemy which is hard to conquer. Get rid of that idea. 'Self Discipline' is a collection of good habits which you can build. Read more in "Choose Your Pain: Discipline or Regret".

Discipline is not a scary word. [Pic]

3. Stop multitasking

Contrary to popular beliefs, multitasking is in fact one of the main killers of productivity. You may think that you are getting much done. The truth is you are getting many tasks going but badly done. See "Farewell to Multitasking".

2. Be motivated

You need motivation not just for spring cleaning but everything else you do everyday. It is easy to feel unmotivated and you would need to know how to refuel. See "Get Your Daily Motivation".

1. Cheer up

Finally, if you are feeling down and can't get started, you need to fight the G Force and get up. You don't have much time left. See "Get Yourself a "Cheer Up' First Aid Kit".

Multitasking is not a good idea. [Pic]

Most importantly, do away with the need for spring cleaning. Keep your house clutter-free and buy only what you need. That makes daily cleaning easy and there will be less need, or better still, no need for an annual spring cleaning.

Let's welcome the Dragon Year with a set of new habits.

Other similar articles:

"To think too long about doing a thing often becomes its undoing." (Eva Young)

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Monday, January 2, 2012

Flying with the Little One - 12 Tips

Flying with children need not be a stressful experience. [Pic]

I loathe long hauls, especially when I have to share the same trip with a wailing child (not necessarily mine).

I don't have much experience flying with young children. However, each time when there is a grouchy little one on board, I can totally feel the kind of stress the minder has to go through.

If you have minded little ones on board, you would know what I mean.

You need to be flexible when traveling
with young children.

Life for you and junior need not be that bad in the air. Take a look at some tips I have gathered from first hand experience and observation. I have also included what friends, relatives and some experts have shared.

You know your young traveling companion better. Be prepared to adjust along the way.

Let junior decide which toy to bring along. [Pic]

12. Before the trip

Get your child involved in the packing. Let him/her decide which toy to bring along. Explain to him/her the purpose of items packed so that he/she has some idea what to expect at the destination. For eg., let him/her know that you are packing a bottle of sunblock because you are bringing him/her to a sunny place.

11. Ample time before flight

Let your child have a great time playing at the airport. Build in sufficient allowance and give him/her time to run around. The child might be stressed out if you are rushing for time.

Bring only what is necessary on board. [Pic]

10. Don't bring too much

Unless you are flying in style via the first/business class, do expect the economy class cabin to be squeezy. Bring what is necessary on board and don't carry loads of stuff as if you are migrating. You should be paying more attention to your child and not the luggage.

9. Airport security

The clearing process can be intimidating to young children. Take time to explain to your child the purpose and that the security personnel are not there to harm anyone. This is especially important to first time young travelers. You do not want to create a scene when he/she refuses to let teddy bear go through the scanner.

Explain to junior that teddy bear has
to go through security checks.

8. Boarding

Most airlines allow passengers traveling with young children to board first. This makes a lot of sense. However, your kid may feel uneasy watching the crowd looking for their seats and stowing their luggage above their heads.

Boarding first is not necessarily a good idea. You might want to be the last instead. Let the rest settle down and you board just in time. Your child does not need to start his/her journey gawking at the chaos before taxiing.

7. Stroller, to bring or not to bring?

It depends. If your holiday involves some traveling on foot, do not expect junior to keep up. However, if you are just going to hop in and out of your rented car, a stroller might not be necessary.

If you are bringing a stroller, have it folded and placed at the end of the jet-way before boarding. You will pick it up from the 'same place' at your destination. Don't forget to tag it.

Suckling some candies can help to reduce
pressure in the ears.

6. Food

Your child may not like airline food (who does?). Young children are less compromising when they are hungry. Bring along some handy snacks and let your child have access to their favorite food at all times. 

It would be a good idea feeding them at the airport before the start of the journey. Get him/her some lollipops to suckle during take off and landing. That might help reduce the pressure in his/her ears.

Be sure to check the custom regulations before bringing any food items across the border.

5. Give some assignments

If your child is old enough, assign some tasks to keep him/her occupied during the flight. Let him/her have a drawing pad or a jotter book. He/she may draw or write about what he/she likes to see during the holidays. Nowadays, with gadgets such as iPad, your little one can have endless ways to be kept entertained.

Bring suitable gadgets to keep your
child occupied.

4. Stay hydrated

The air in the cabin can get very dry. Let your child take frequent sips of water during his waking hours. Some lotion for dry skin would come in handy too. Occasionally, wet his/her nostrils with your wet finger. A child with irritated nostrils will not be in a good mood.

3. Sleep during flight

This would be ideal. If it is within your control, plan your child's nap time such that it largely coincides with the flight time.

Keep the little one hydrated
throughout the flight.

2. Medication

If you are planning to get some medication for your child to ease motion sickness or aid sleeping, consult your doctor first.

1. Watch your own behavior

Little children are very sensitive. They can be become apprehensive and cautious in a new environment. Your child will look to you for assurance. If you are flustered, worried or frustrated, your child will not feel any better.

Your mood can affect your
child's behavior.

So remember, just relax and make the best out of any situation.

A holiday is not supposed to be stressful. Think through it, plan ahead, adjust along the way and always be prepared to abandon your plan.

Have a great trip!

"You can learn many things from children. How much patience you have, for instance." (Franklin P. Jones)

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