Tuesday
Jun182013

Goodbye Fluffiatko

My best furry friend and my only baby died on May 17, aged 17 years 5 months and 2 days. Her friends and family said goodbye to her last Sunday. May her little bubli-soul travel to exciting places and continue spreading bublibiciousness in the universe.

Planning a pet memorial service was something I've done for the very first time. I knew I wanted to do this for her, as she deserved to be treated as any other human being. She impacted my life more than any other person and gave me unlimited amount of unconditional true love.

Planning a memorial service for your dearest pet might be difficult at times. Be prepared to cry during a lot of tasks. Picking up the remains was one of the hardest things I've done in my whole life. Moving them into a different box was not any easier. Goign over hundreds of photos and videos was both calming and hurting. But I do want to be enveloped in memories of my baby, and mourning is just a normal part of life.

There aren't many resources about this kind of event online, so I researched a human memorial service instead and adapted it to Fluffiatko. I wanted to create a space that oozes peace and memories of Fluffy. If you are planning an at home service for your loved one, creating a picture collage is a great (and very inexpensive) way to engage the guests in a conversation about the person that we lost.

Getting an antique box for the remains adds a touch of timelessness and makes the remains looks special, which aligns with how we feel about the departed one.

When organizing the memorial service at home, it's not necessary to rent chairs for everyone. Just use what you already have. The service shall not be too long to require that everyone gets a seat. However, everyone shall have easy access to a box of tissues. Remember, the more they loved the pet, the more they will grieve. A lot of tears is a good sign, it's a sign that your pet touched lots of lives.

Surround the space with as many memories of the loved one as you can. I put two black and white photos of sleeping Fluffiatko right on top of the couch. The will eventually hang in our bedroom and will give us bublibiciousness while we sleep.

A proper memorial service shall be followed by a reception, or at least some kind of refreshments. If held in church, the grieving family often arranges a simple snack and drinks table right outside of the church doors. However, when you are hosting a memorial service at your home, you can spend some extra time and prepare a beautiful spread of appetizers. Your guests will be enjoying the treats and staying around for a bit longer, remembering the departed loved one for a little longer.

Invite all doggy friends of your deceased pet, and make sure to prepare some treats for them too. I baked a batch of beef and vegetable pupcakes (recipe). The six doggies that were present had a mini-competion in pupcake eating. George (a Shih-tzu friend of Fluffy) won.

Use all your fancy serverware, and make every dish easy to eat while standing. For instance, I made a pull-apart honeycomb cake which does not require a knife to serve.

Anett brought her little Bunny and Brian brought Lucy. Tessa and Dan brought Ada, Dawn and Pierre brought George, and JR and Steven brought their two pugs Otis and Zoie. 

Zoie traveled in style.

After everyone left, Brian and Lucy got a little rowdy. But hey, a memorial service is all about puppy love!

.... and about remembering the amazing person Fluffy was, the million ways she touched our lives, and the major hole she left in our hearts.

Monday
Apr292013

A Hostess (with the mostess?)

My Birthday weekend was epic! Let me tell you why:

  1. First, there were not one, but TWO furruses (a.k.a. furry four legged creatures) present at the party which made it way more bublibicious! Ada was jumping on my lap the whole evening, and Lucy was staying under the table, making sure Brian does not leave without her.
  2. Second, my husband cooked an eight course dinner for me and my friends.
  3. Third, I felt truly loved. Everyone's toasts were touching and humbling at the same time. I got lots of hugs and lots of kind words (some of which could probably be attributed to the existence of the scoreboard with everyone's name on it).

The planning really started few weeks ago when I decided to buy a dining table that can expand to seat twelve people. Once the table arrived, I got all kinds of ideas about what to put on it. The ideas continue coming in and I already know this table is going to be put into heavy use.

You can see it with your own eyes in the following time lapse from my birthday dinner. Pump up the volume:

The table inspiration came from Pinterest. How close did I get to the inspiration?

After I made the custom tablecloth, I knew the rest was all about adding a ton of flowers, gold and bling! The flowers came from SF Flower Market (where I managed to buy them in spite of being talked to only in Spanish) and I arranged them the day of the party. The cupcakes came from Julie, who designed them for Baker and Banker herself! They were fantastic white chocolate raspberry ganache filled pieces of heaven!

People nearest and dearest to my heart were there:

Guests knew they will get points for wearing salmon/gold attire to match the table. What I did not expect, however, was that this new point-collecting game will continue through the night and we will end up with everyone competing for points on the scoreboard. People got points for the weirdest things. Aria got five points for taking Ada out for a walk. With three toasts which included a dancing toast, Erin totally earned the first place:

And now onto the food. As is common with Brad's cooking, the dinner was partially improvised but the main ideas were set ahead of time. The courses were:

  1. ceviche
  2. beef tataki
  3. summer squash and red lentil soup with chicken, creme fraiche, scallions and chives
  4. arugula salad with spring corn and foie gras vinaigrette
  5. seared foie gras with frisee, crostini, and mango chutney
  6. intermezzo (coconut sorbet with strawberries)
  7. main course (salmon with glazed carrots)
  8. dessert (Julie's cupcakes and a cheese plate) 

As is common with me, I properly photographed all eight courses:

After reviewing the footage from the time-lapse camera upstairs, I discovered a few gems that show just how much fun we all had. It even looks like Brian and Alex were ready to take it outside at some point. :)

Big thanks to my wonderful manus for treating his ladus like a queen and cooking for us all! Also, big thanks to Tess who was helping Brad make this dinner go smoothly.

Sunday
Dec232012

Istanbul for Photographers

Istanbul is an exciting place for photographers. Just imagine all the colorful bokeh you can get at the places like Grand Bazaar or a Blue Mosque! Here are few places that are worth bringing your camera to. But first let's start with a short stopmotion that shows them all!

And now onto the photos of my favorite places to photograph:

#1 Grand Bazaar

Bazaar offers lots of cheap (read "low quality crap from China") trinkets that try to present themselves as something made by Turkish artisans. It's fun to photograph, but probably not worth the buy. The best shop I found at the Bazaar was a Belgian Godiva chocolate shop where I got delicious skewer of chocolate covered strawberries. I also bargained few scarves for my girlfriends, which ended up costing more than the same merchandise in SF Chinatown. But the bargaining was fun.

You will see lots of caterers carrying turkish tea to the shop owners. The black tea is very bitter, but tastes delicious with one cube of sugar. There is a good chance that a shop owner will offer you some tea while trying to convince you to buy a carpet.

#2 Topkapi Palace

Topkapi palace was a home to many Ottoman sultans. It has an unusual layout for someone who is used to seeing European castles and palaces. It looks more like a monastery than a palace but worry not. There are lots of great things to photograph. Its Harem for example.

The Harem contains lots of rooms, courtyards, and even Sultan's private apartment. This is the top of his bed:

And this is Sultan's ceiling:

Another interesting building within the compound is the old Imperial Council hall. This is what the entrance looks like:

Once you enter the imperial council hall, you'll see these gorgeous ceiling paintings:

#3 Hagia Sophia

This former church turned into mosque turned into museum challenges your exposure skills. The bottom part is covered with bright chandeliers, and the top part is dark. However, one can not use a tripod and thus can not create a good HDR image that would expose every part of the church evenly. I suggest you bring a bag of beans or a bag filled with packing noodles, and use it as a makeshift floor tripod. I made a mistake bringing my tripod and had to leave it in the security booth. These shots are all done hand-held.

#4 Basilica Cistern

This underground wonder took our breath away. Tripods were not allowed, which made me use my do-it-yourself makeshift tripod which consisted of laying the camera on the floor and propping the lens with my lip balm. As you can imagine, tourists were walking by me wondering why I am kneeling on the floor and waiting during for long exposure to end.

At the very back of the cistern, you'll find two columns with medusa heads at the base.

#5 Blue Mosque

This mosque is fully operational and you can enter it only outside of the prayer hours. You won't need much time to take few shots, as you are not allowed to roam around the whole mosque. All visitors must stay in the back part of the mosque which is separated by a railing. The admission is free, which is another plus.

#6 Streets of Istanbul

You will most likely spend more time in the streets of Istanbul than inside of the tourist attractions. Take advantage of this and practice some street photography. My favorite streets were around Beyoglu district, just on the other side of Galata Bridge.

Winter fruit is offered on every corner. Make sure to get a delicious pomegranate or orange juice.

Confused tourists make great subjects!

When you walk the Galata Bridge at night, you can prop your camera on a curb and get this shot:

Istanbul is definitely a must-see place for photograpers. The next time I visit this city I will make sure to bring a super wide lens, to allow me to capture the Grand Bazaar and mosques even better. If you visited Istanbul, I'd like to see your photos. You can share them in the comments below.

Friday
Nov232012

Nine Courses, Ten Bottles of Wine, and One Broken Chair

This year's Thanksgiving has been quite an experience. It was the first time that Brad and I held a formal nine course dinner at our home. Let's just say, the number of forks we needed to eat all this food with exceeded the number of forks we own... and we own a lot of forks (48).

 The menu was a bit unorthodox. The traditional turkey dinner was preceeded by a few non-Thanksgiving but still very seasonal courses and little amuse bouches.

We started off with champagne and soon moved onto Riesling which paired perfectly with the little amuse bouche Brad whipped out using beets, carrots, and goat cheese.

 The bubli bouche was followed by an appetizer -- a foie gras au torchon which I made with Emil earlier. Emil's wine choice, a rose, paired perfectly with the foie.

The foie dish was followed by my famous cheesy leek soup (it's really my mom's recipe but shhhh). Paired with a glass of pinot. The soup was the winning dish of the evening. Notice that I almost forgot to take a photo of the soup (I took few spoons before I realized I need to photograph it)... that's how good it was.

In the meantime, Lucy, the gray furrus, was trying to pull down the turkey from the counter. She eventually succeeded, but thankfully it was AFTER we served the turkey dinner.

Emil and Brad carefully selected the right wine to match every course.

The next unexpected amuse bouche came out of the oven shortly after. It was hard to tell what it was but it tasted like cheese fritata with whole cloves of roasted garlic. It was a heavy hitter.

Everyone seemed to be having fun.

Another popular amuse bouche slash bubli bouche -- a shrimp and cinnamon apple skewer.

Lucy continued on her quest to eat all the food on the counter.

A small salad of arugula, seared turkey liver, shallots, and pomegranate.

The leftover pomegranate made a great addition to our fall harvest bowl.

In the meantime, Lucy plotted her next "counter" attack (no pun intended).

And she succeeded! Brad made a mistake and left a mushroom mac and cheese cooling in the guest room. The muffin pan had twelve slots. Lucy incorrectly assumed one must be for her.

Brad's mom (the lady with the nice hair) seemed to enjoy the evening as well.

Emil brought a nice glass decanter for the anticipated red wine pairings.

One more little intermezzo to cleanse the palate before the turkey dinner -- a lemon sorbet with blueberry sauce and blackberry.

Emil's (well, now mine) decanter in action.

Voila! A traditional Thanksgiving turkey dinner. On the plate, clockwise from top: mashed potatoes, evil mac and cheese, turkey with gravy, maple whipped sweet potatoes with hazelnut shallot parsley brown butter, Brad's evil stuffing, and some cranberry sauce.

Hazelnut shallot parsley brown butter in detail:

After seven hours (!!!) and one false fire alarm we finally moved onto the dessert -- Julie's famous pumpkin pie!

And to top things off, Brad and I broke a chair together when we both sat on it at the same time. Hey, that's a perfect excuse to buy more Eames wire chairs!

I hereby declare to the best of my knowledge that this Thanksgiving extravaganza was a success!

Thursday
Jun282012

Announcing The Stopmotionista (Hey, that's me!)

As many of you noticed, a new link has been added to the main page. It leads to my new website that is all about stop motion. I also have been recently interviewed by the lovely Catherine Hall and her co-host Leo Laporte on Twit Photo about my work. Click on the thumb below to view the interview. I'm explaining how I shoot and edit my stop motions:

My new site is meant to be a resource for all things stop motion. I even put together few short videos with instructions on how to shoot short stop motion sequences. Excuse the poor sound quality and the lack of my speaking persona... I'm working on both. :)

I'd like to invite you all to share your creations with me and would love to feature them on the Stopmotionista. The site also offers a Forum -- a place to talk about anything and everything, ask questions, or give suggestions. Come and visit me there. :)