Saturday, 16 July 2011

Bastille Day

on the restaurant window
July 14th 1789 is a day in French history when the storming of the Bastille occurred. The Bastille is medieval fortress-prison (which only had seven inmates at the time of the storming!) which represented the royal authority. The history of the French Revolution (and Napoleon's conquests) hold a high ranking of my all time favourite historical periods. While brushing up on my French history this week, I read that the key to the Bastille was sent to George Washington in 1790 and is still in his Mount Vernon residence– I wish I knew that when I last visited Mount Vernon!

I really do love the extravagance of the Rococo period, the Palace of Versailles, and Marie Antoinette's luxurious lifestyle. The Revolution changed a lot of things, and as everyone knows, they are never easy.
One day I'd like to go back and visit the Palace and its gardens again during my lifetime, it's been probably seven years since I have been there. There was some construction going on when I visited and therefore I missed out on the Hall of Mirrors...

balloons everywhere
cute window boxes at restaurant
I attended a Bastille Day celebration at a French Restaurant, which was a lot of fun! It was mostly eating, eating, and more eating (how very decadent)!

Look who was dug out of closet storage! It is Paper Marie, from my paper theatre project of Napoleon & Co. I could not resist having her as part of the project. She is one of my favourites, and she got to pose with a hanging flag of France today just for the purpose of this blog.
I really should give her a paper theatre of her very own, and a version of herself pre-guillotined.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Obon! (お盆)

Saturday I attended an Obon at Ekoji Temple with a friend through I have never attended an Obon before and was excited to be able to go and experience it.

From Ekoji's website:
Obon is a Buddhist observance to honor the memories of loved ones celebrated as a gathering of joy. In remembering the deceased, Buddhists acknowledge and express gratitude for the influence of the deceased on our lives. It is an opportunity to express gratitude and love to all who have passed on. 

Shave ice!
It has been celebrated in Japan for more than 500 years each summer. In some regions of Japan it is celebrated mid July, and others, mid August. It is believed that the ancestor's spirits return to this world to visit relatives. It is a very colourful and festive event, a time to wear yukata, eat food, and participate in lots of dancing.
There was a few vendors selling things (traditional clothing, vegetables, food, games, random VHS, and one of the most useful things – fans!). I now own a yukata, though I doubt I will have any reason to wear it.

Shave ice (Kakigōri) was being made traditionally with a hand cranked machine, with a spinning block of ice! It was very good to eat, as the weather was hot and humid. I did a little researching on shave ice, and learned that it dates back to the Heian period, back when ice was brought down from the mountains. So it was a royal luxury.

I wasn't able to bring my usual camera as I feared for its safety, so I brought my old digital camera – a bonus is that it can take video! (And survive being dropped.)

Taiko drummers (I stood on a chair, with my camera above my head and this is all I could catch)

There was also a miniature train/town setup...which I could not ignore! I used the photoshop actions of flickr's Dave Ward for some quick fanciness. They actually look like terrible photographs without the effects because it does not take much to make this certain camera blur...
(It really made me appreciate the Nikon dslr I have so much more!)

More history from Ekoji's website, as they explain it better than I ever could:
Ekoji celebrates this important occasion with an evening of old and new Japanese folk dances and a lighting of memorial candles on Saturday evening with a service in the temple on Sunday. This traditional combination is a custom that originated 2500 years ago in India.  One of Sakyamuni Buddha’s followers, the famous disciple Mogallana, was distraught because, in a vision, he saw his late mother suffering in the hell of hungry ghosts.  It was not that she was an evil person, but that as a parent, she had strong motherly attachments to the son and wanted so much for him.  When Mogallana asked the Buddha how he could relieve his mother’s suffering, the Buddha advised him to honor his mother’s memory by selfless giving of dana on her behalf.  Mogallana gathered donations of clothing and food for the Sangha and at the end of the rainy season distributed these at a gathering out under the starry skies.  As he did so, he had a vision of his mother now enjoying the peaceful tranquility of Nirvana, and he began to dance in joy.

As Buddhism moved from India into Southeast Asia, China, Korea, Japan and to the United States, so did the custom of O-Bon as a joyous gathering of fond remembrance.  In a warm and gentle way, O-Bon reminds us that everyone in the community has been touched with the loss of a loved one and like Mogallana’s mother we too can enjoy the peaceful tranquility of Nirvana.
A Brief Introduction To Buddhism

To guide the visiting ancestor's spirits, lanterns are hung. 
Once it was near dark, they held a candlelight memorial service which was a nice end to the day. The garden was beautiful with all the memorial candles and the red lanterns. 
It was definitely a great festival to attend!

Friday, 8 July 2011

"Hello? Hello? Is that you, weekend?"

117/365 : telephone

Ever since I really figured out my Nikon D60, it has been one of my favourite things. Especially the macro lens. Since the beginning of 2011 I have been trying to take a photo everyday for a flickr group/challenge, Mini 365. I am only up to 121, so I am behind and haven't been able to take an everyday photo. I have learned so much about my camera, and am having fun thinking of new photography ideas. 
I find it rather amusing that taking photos of miniature toys has paid off– the experience of using a DSLR on an almost daily basis has made me very comfortable whenever I have to take photos of toys at my design job!

Tuesday, 5 July 2011


I picked 5 pounds of organic blueberries recently at a local farm... so far I have only made skillet jam. Even after what feels like days and days of grazing on blueberries, there is still many many more. 

Blueberry Skillet Jam 
Recipe from Good Housekeeping
  • 1 pint blueberries, mashed
  • 2 tablespoons powdered fruit pectin
  • 1/2 teaspoons margarine or butter
  • 1 cup sugar

Directions: In 12-inch skillet, heat blueberries, pectin, and margarine or butter over medium-high heat, stirring constantly until mixture boils. Stir in sugar; heat to boiling. Boil 1 minute; remove from heat.
Pour jam into two 1/2-pint jars with tight-fitting lids.
Cover and refrigerate until jam is set and cold, about 6 hours. Keep jam refrigerated and use within 3 weeks.

* My note: I used a bit more than 2 cups of blueberries, finding various sources saying a pint of berries is 2 1/2 cups.
* I used Sure Jell dry pectin. One day I will try Ball's brand, if I come across it.

I still have to think of some more things to make... Blueberry pie? Blueberry sorbet?

from the blueberry field