Friday, April 30, 2010

Photo post: Hair and Hong Kong

The weather in Hong Kong was DIVINE today - and since that's rarer than hen's teeth (do hens really not have teeth??) I decided to take the camera out. Yay for me.

This is pre-outing hair. I was on my way to a casting for a Whirlpool commerical, which required a tre-bouffant look.

Side note: So WTF was I doing at a Whirlpool commerical casting?? No really, I'm asking!

I am not a model. All 160cm of me never has been, isn't now, and never will be. But I do moonlight as an actress from time to time, and therefore I was sent for this casting.

The waiting room was choking with 6-foot tall beauties carrying portfolios. Each had stick skinny legs, sky-high heels and long floaty hair. These people exist??? And why do they all look so miserable?

Open email to Tyra Banks: Dear Tyra. Thank you very much for your addictive modelling programs. The ones where the girls are all bitchy and there is a glamorous photo of you inserted into every 3rd frame. If it wasn't for you I would have had no clue what to do in my casting. I thought of you and smiled with my eyes. You would have been proud :) Cheers, Nat.

After my dismal casting I wandered around the fantastic streets of Mong Kok and felt more like myself:

I think this dude is selling cheap DVDs! If only I could understand the rest...

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

So WTF is happening??

I have noticed I've been writing a lot of posts lately about cooking, eating and Otto.

But that doesn't really cut through to any real depth, does it. As lovely as those three things are.

I go through stages when I'm all about stripping my skin bare and unleashing all sorts of honest emotions upon the world (perhaps a form of detox); and at other times I prefer to run and hide under a massive doona with cupcakes, cable TV, and my privacy.

But perhaps it's time for some deeper blogs again.

I know when I read other people's blogs, while I love a laugh now and again, I also search for something more. Something I can identify with and recognise; for as many of us know, life releases a teeny bit of pressure when it comes across something similar. It's part of that "thank god I'm not the only one" thing.

So then, on a deeper level, how is Hong Kong going? How are me and B? Are we elated? miserable? Somewhere in between?

Rather than waffle on for eternity (as you may have learned I have a habit of doing) I've made a list of bits and pieces that have gone one during the past couple of months. Because I'm slightly OCD and always love the 'nutshellness' of a list.

And I also love the nutshellness of the world nutshellness.

Yes I am a bit nuts. Especially today.

So here's what's been going on...

- My sister and her boyfriend came and went, and once again it was back to me and B in our Happy Valley apartment. Thousands of miles from family. Since they left we have both been incredibly busy with work and study, so there's been no real time to mope, but the tyranny of distance always lurks in the back corners of the mind.

Wow that last line unexpectedly came out a bit like a dark trashy novel. Perhaps I should begin a new career.

- The novelty of being in Hong Kong has finally started to wane. But while the honeymoon period is nearing its end, there is still a lot of love left. I am in no way liking Hong Kong less, but the feeling of exploration and being on a perpetual holiday is disappearing and the drudgery is starting to set in. B's lived in multiple cities and warned me that, eventually, any place starts to get that 'same old, same old' feeling. So life is a bit of a daily grind right about now. With many awesome bits in between.

- B and I have had our ups and downs in the past month or so. Don't get me wrong, I am utterly happy in this respect, but couples, well... disagree. And, as I've said before, confining yourselves to a small apartment, located in a new city, and within a new cycle, can breed all sorts of unique challenges. And as I occasionally let the pressures get to me, I tend to harden up. And B, well, he stays soft and kind. No problems there. He's still amazing, and the person I'd most like to be like in life.

- Little Otto is growing up, and is nearly 6 months. He looks more like a dog than a rat now, and has graduated to sleeping on our bed and three walks a day. Okay maybe two. Occasionally three. And sometimes only one. Shhh. He's still got an appetite that would put a pregnant woman to shame and recently became quite sick when he ate something he shouldn't off the ground. So now he walks around wearing a muzzle, which provokes distrusting stares from strangers, who eye him off as to say, "oh he may be tiny, but he's obviously very bitey". But I love Otto to bits and thank myself every day that he came into our lives. Admittedly I am utterly sick of cleaning up pee and poop, walking him every morning, finding destroyed parts of furniture, having him beg while I eat, waking up at 6am on weekends, and having to come home early when I'm out having fun. But he brings such joy to our lives and I wouldn't swap him for the world.

- Over the past month I realised that at the rate I'm going, I won't finish university studies until August 2011! And that made me feel overwhelmed and slightly depressed. Not in the 'can't get out of bed way', but just in the, 'can't see over the horizon' way. I'm not a natural studier, but I'm an enormously hard worker.

- On a happier note, we've booked a road trip through the USA this September, my mum and step-dad are coming to visit in October, and I'll likely head home to Australia in January. B is also off to Canada in July. So there's excitement to look forward to, as well as much of Hong Kong still to explore. We really have great friends here and are coming into summer; which means soaring heat, weekends on junk boats, and typhoons. My new mission is to explore Hong Kong's many islands, of which I have seen very few.

So back to... you guessed it... studies, blah!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Otto still hasn't quite figured out his house

"Roll-your-sleeves-up Chinese"

This is an entirely ordinary image of my friends and I having dinner in a Chinese restaurant.

Allow me to explain this cuisine chaos before you fire me from the experience of food.

When you go out for a traditional meal (or as B calls it, "roll-your-sleeves-up Chinese") there are some fundamental do's and don'ts (which I have come to learn):

- You almost always eat out in a group. Most authentic chinese restaurants contain very few 'intimate' low-lighting tables, and usually seat people in larger groups, under flourescent lights, with a lazy susan in the middle. This is because eating is perhaps the most social pastime in Chinese culture, and people often eat out with friends or family rather than meeting for coffee and a cake. There is nothing romantic about this experience.

- You let an expert order. The menus are often pages long with unrecognisable English, and you'll need to sift through eons of unappetizing options like birds nest, shark fin soup and 'thousand year old egg', before finding something that sounds even vaguely familiar. Therefore hopefully you'll have a friend with you who's grown up in Hong Kong or can at least enlighten you to what 'thousand year old egg' even is.

- Do not expect too many smiles from the waiters. Or perhaps any at all. They're not there to be charming; they're there to scribble your order down on a scrap of paper and keep things moving. That is all.

- You do not need to dress up. This is not fine dining. This is a feeding frenzy.

- It took me a long time to accept this: the messier you are at eating, the more polite you are. This is truly a mission to get your head around. If you drop food onto the table, never clean it up. A messy table is a sign of a great meal.

So as you can see by this photo - this last meal was nothing short of sensational. And there is the rice that we were all too full to eat - because it came out last.

Otto being entirely inappropriate

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Cooking Post: Chinese Fried Rice

I am back!!!!

Yes I know, my last post said I'd upload my Chinese Fried Rice recipe within 24 hours... I thought I heard the sound of raucous laughter when I wrote that.

But I have returned and am here to divulge the secrets to Chinese Fried Rice. Which sounds like a bit of a nothing dish, but is actually quite tricky to make, and incredibly delicious when done well.

Thanks to my Hong Kong cooking classes, I have become a Chinese Fried Rice connoisseur. Or snob.

At school my pictures turned out wonderfully... the pictures below are from the debarcle of attempting to replicate it at home. All in all though, not a bad effort. So here 'tis.

Authentic Chinese Fried Rice


Serves 1 - Chinese recipes are a little lonely. Just multiply it by your number of brave guests.

200g rice (already boiled) If you have a rice cooker, I suggest you use it, as perfectly cooked rice (not soggy, not too dry) is a MUST.
30g green peas (frozen)
30g carrot
40g small or medium sized shrimp (no shells)
1 egg
1 to 2 stalks of spring onion (around 10g)
Corn oil for cooking
1/4 tsp chicken powder
1 tsp sugar


1. Finely dice the roasted pork and carrot into evenly-shaped squares, around 0.5 cm thick. If you want to be as pedantic as the Chinese, you'll spend nine hours chopping and nine seconds frying. Basically, try and be as neat as possible and ensure each piece is evenly sized.
Cut the shrimps in half and then chop the spring onion into fine pieces, around 2-3mm thick.

2. Add 1 teaspoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of sugar to a saucepan of water and bring it to the boil.

3. Add the following ingredients to a strainer (in the below order) and then dip the strainer the boiling water to blanch them:

- Put the carrot in the strainer and dip it into the boiling water for around 2 minutes, or until the colour deepens.
- Add the peas and hold the strainer in the
boiling water for around 1 minute, or until the colour deepens.
- Add the shrimp and then dip the strainer in the boiling water for five seconds only.
- Finally, add the pork and dip the strainer in the boiling water for two seconds only. That's right, two seconds. And not a millisecond more or my Chinese cooking teacher will hunt you down.
- Then strain all of the ingredients in cold water to cool them down.

4. Add 3/8 teaspoon of salt (yes, that's the bizarre measurement they gave me) and 1/4 teaspoon of chicken powder to the boiled rice.

5. Heat a wok (without any oil in it) until it is very hot. You'll know it's hot enough when it starts to smoke.

6. When the wok is nice and hot, rinse it with corn oil. Just pour it in and use the handle to swish it all around. Drain it thoroughly.

7. Quickly break the egg into the wok, and IMMEDIATELY pour the rice on top. Then flip the mound of rice over straight away and start stirring like mad. You do not want the egg to set and start forming an omelette in the wok. You want the egg to be completely absorbed by the rice. To do that, you need to add the egg and rice almost at the same time, and then stir continuously. Use a spatula to 'press' the rice down and keep flipping, but be mindful not to cut the pieces of rice in half. If you tilt the wok to the side with one hand on the handle, this helps to control the distribution of heat.

If you can't see any egg at all and rice pieces have separated and are not clumped together, you've done a stellar job.

8. Once the egg has been absorbed, the rice is dry, and the dish is smelling nice and aromatic (the Chinese often cook via aroma) then pour in the blanched ingredients. Keep stirring.

9. When the shrimp is thoroughly cooked (around 3-4 minutes), add the spring onion. Toss quickly for a few seconds only and then immediately transfer to a serving place.

All Chinese food needs to be eaten straight away! Otherwise it loses its crispness and a lot of its flavour. That is why when you order food in a Chinese restaurant, you'll often get your entree last and your main meal ten minutes before your partner's. If a meal comes out and doesn't appear to be still smoking, Chinese patrons often complain.

Notice there was no soy sauce (or sauce of any kind for that matter) in this recipe? With fresh ingredients, not overcooked (note the 2 seconds of spring onion and 2 second to blanch the pork), Chinese fried rice tastes absolutely delicious all on its own.

Good luck!

Pics from my at home attempt:

Chopping ingredients


Keep that rice moving!

Paint it all over the kitchen for luck.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Chinese Fried Rice

Last night it was Chinese Fried Rice... a dish that is much tricker than it sounds...
you'll see when I post the recipe (I hope within 24 hours!!)

But here's an early tip... there is NO sauce in Chinese Fried Rice. Nada. Nil. Niente. No soy sauce of any brand, flavour or variety. And it's delicious... especially if you manage to make it without painting it all over your stove top, like I did in this photo.

Of course I hit some snags while making it...

- Everything is measured in grams, and I don't have a set of scales. So B and I were madly trying to convert grams to millilitres and cup sizes... not really useful when you're dealing with solids and non-liquids. Note to Nat: must buy scales.

- While I was carefully adding the correct amount of salt, the cap came off and it poured in like Niagra Falls... just a tad frustrating. So I spooned it all out, and it ended up being not salty enough! Grrrr.

- Time is of the essence in Fried Rice, and my dog was nipping at my feet attempting to devour all the fallen pieces, while B was madly trying to hoover them up before he got to them - meanwhile the wok was burning up on high heat, with me tossing and chucking rice everywhere with my spatula.

The suggestion was made that perhaps I should never do this again! :)

But it tasted... delicious. Will post recipe soon. x

Monday, April 12, 2010

The world's creepiest photo

And yours truly happened to snap it! Should I apply for National Geographic?

I took this pic deep inside Cape Tribulation; a headland which lies in the heart of the Daintree Rainforest in Australia's Far North Queensland and on the edge of the Great Barrier Reef.

It is truly one of the most special places on Earth, and holds many important memories for me.

This is a huntsman spider mama, protecting her hundreds of baby huntsman spiders.

It creeps me out everytime I look at it.

B used to have it as his computer screen saver and I made him change it to a stock image of Bora Bora Tahitian villas instead. That is so much more appropriate.

p.s. The mammoth work two weeks is over! Now catching up on studies and hoping to blog more.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

WTF have I been doing??

I am not one to leave an entire Easter between posts.

But... this week I am working two jobs and have two university assignments due.

This is really quite a lot, and I am up to my chocolate easter balls in stuff to do!!

And when it's all over and I reach for the computer to blog... I often end up reaching for the pillow instead.

I promise to be back online soon.

This is the nature of self-employment... some weeks they all call at once!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Happy Easter! x

Friday, April 2, 2010

Happy Easter to my two boys

We we caught up, we toured, we laughed, we ate, we drank, we danced.

My sis fell in love with little Otto; and he her.

Now it's a beautiful Easter morning; sis and her man are back home in Australia after an upgrade to business class home (woop!) and B is pumped to have five entire days off.

I, on the other hand, am facing a nightmarish two weeks of study and work and do not have an entire five days off... I don't even have a single day off in sight until April 18.

Oh and somewhere in between a quick zip across to Macau to authenticate my new working visa.

But even when I'm in that slightly testy "shhhhh, I'm working!!" mode, when the playtimes get too loud - I love having both my boys around.

Have a fantabulous Easter, with lots of love, family, thankfulness - and, of course, chocolately goodness.

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