Friday, April 30, 2010

Photography Frustrations

I have loved pictures for as long as I remember. When I was a child I loved looking at old family photos. In high school I liked taking pictures and would organize them in boxes. When we moved to China a family member told me before we left to make sure we took lots of pictures so they could "see" our life. I don't think that I have let them down.
Now that I have a DSLR (which I have been dreaming about for 4 years now) I have had fun trying to take "better" looking photos. I haven't ever worked with an DSLR before so I am trying to learn all the elements of how to take a good picture. I really learn best with a teacher who gives me hands on explanation (which I don't have). The latest frustration I had was my photo shoot at the park yesterday. The sun was shining, the weather was perfect (not too hot, not too cold), the flowers were blooming, so off we went to take some photos.
The good thing about having a digital camera is that you can look at your pictures right away allowing you to try different settings to get what you are looking for. The problem I faced yesterday is that I was outside in the sun so I couldn't see the preview picture very well. The sun reflecting off the LCD screen makes it really difficult to see the picture's true colors.
Last time I took pictures outside there was too much light coming in, so I put on a filter. Now, there is still a little too much light and the color is maybe a little too vibrant. It looks like it is fake. I don't know what to do. Anyone have any suggestions?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Big Huge Mess!

When we first arrived in Qingdao we got our daughter this beanbag. After 3 years the stuffing has flattened and the bag is much much smaller than it used to be. A friend helped me find and purchase more stuffing. I knew from past experience that the stuffing is impossible to work with. Sticking to you and everything else, flying everywhere, blowing everywhere . . . . just crazy crazy stuff. So my plan was to just take the bag and not even open it, just stuff it into the beanbag. HA! As soon as I touched the bag it ripped! So I quickly put that end into the opened bag and I noticed that the beads were spilling out another whole. I quickly grabbed that and shoved that part into the bag and then, you guess it, another HUGE whole and the beads were pouring everywhere except for, or so it felt like, IN the beanbag.

It took me a little while to clean it up but I really impressed myself and was able to get all but a few into the bag.

Monday, April 12, 2010

True Color 2

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Hang'n In There

True Color

We got a DSLR camera while we were in the States and I am trying to learn how to use it. The other day I was trying to take a picture of the beauty outside my bedroom window. I love when the sun is shining and reflecting off the water. Every time I look at it I am just in awe of our Maker's handy work. But, every time I try and capture the beauty in a picture I am always disappointed.

This was my first attempt. Basically I took the camera and took the shot not doing anything to the settings. I was very disappointed in how it turned out. I looked at it and knew that it did not do the scene justice.

Then I remembered that we had purchased a filter with the camera for pictures taken outside. I placed it on and took another shot. Much better blue but still not right.

Next I played with the white balance setting and got a shot that looks much closer to the real thing. Such beauty!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Learning to Corn Beef

I don't know if it's because you get older, you don't have it for a while or you CAN'T have it, but it seems that living in China really changes the thing that you like to eat. Before moving here my husband didn't like things like spicy food, tuna, mayonnaise and cream cheese, but now he loves them! Growing up I don't remember disliking Corned Beef & Cabbage, but it definitely wasn't something I ever asked my mom to make. I'm not really sure when it happened, but now whenever I head back to the States I always request a meal of Corned Beef & Cabbage. I just can't get enough.
Last year during St. Patrick's day I was pregnant and I was really craving corned beef. I searched online for a recipe so I could corn some beef so I could then make corned beef (we don't have the luxury of just going to the grocery store and buying it all packaged up). For whatever reason, probably because I'm terrible at searching for things on the internet, I couldn't find anything. I was just going to have to live without. This year, St. Patrick's day rolled around again and I was talking about corned beef. A friend of mine had said that a friend of hers had made corned beef here in China before! I was thrilled and ready to try it. I searched again online, this time with success!
The part that I dreaded the most was to special order the meat. I had to go to the meat market and ask them to cut me the right size piece of meat. The meat is usually pre-cut into small chunks because people here usually just eat meat cut up really small and stir fried with vegetables. I was all prepared to put up a fight for them to cut me a piece big enough, but when I asked they said ok and ended up giving me about twice as much meat than I really needed. It was much simpler than I imagined, not hard at all - the hardest part was over in my mind.
Next I had to make the brine. Brine is water that is saturated, or nearly saturated with salt and used in the brineing process. The brining process is when meat is soaked, or marinated in brine to preserve it. It causes the meat to be more moist. To make the brine solution I added salt, pepper, bay leaves, cloves to water and heated it on the stove to dissolve all the salt.
Next I put the meat and the brine together in ziplock bags and let it soak for two weeks in my refrigerator.
The time had come to cook it! I rinsed the meat, threw out the brine and placed the meat in the largest pot I had. Filled it 2/3 way full with water and an onion and some spices and turned it on. It started to smell yummy almost immediately!
The meat didn't really look like my mother's corned beef as I cut. I didn't use saltpeter which preserves the redness. But it tasted just like my moms! It was so yummy. I couldn't stop sampling it while I carved it up!
Since I had so much meat I decided to make a party out of this feast and invited a bunch of friends over to enjoy this meal together. The meat would probably have been better if I had cooked it a little bit longer but company was coming! We had 9 adults, 6 children and 2 babies in our small little apartment. but the meal was delicious! Everybody had seconds and thirds! I could have made a third head of cabbage because we ran out.
I can't wait till next St. Patrick's day to make it again!

I followed a couple recipe sights but this is the main one that I used - enjoy!