Sunday, 26 July 2015

FAZIOLI International Piano Recital Series 2015 Review: Nikolai Demidenko on Chopin

Courtesy of Sly's Piano New Zealand, I was invited to The FAZIOLI International Piano Recital Series 2015 that starts off with the legendary Russian pianist Nikolai Demidenko playing Chopin.
You can click here for the details.

The night started with me being seated next to the New Zealand Herald Music critique, click here for what he thought about the night.  
The stage.
LED lights reflection on the keys changes throughout the first section of the recital and turned off in the second section.
The first half of the recital, the "dancing" LED lights started to catch my attention as I noticed the colour projected off the ceiling was different to the colour casting shadows on the white piano keys.  When it was purple from above, it was green on the keys.  This, to the sensitive genius was a very distracting fanciness at the end of a 6 weeks long tour away from the family.

The second half of the recital allowed me to immerse myself in the reverie of the Ballades.  It is every single Chopin lovers' favourite.  Somehow, Nikolai told a complete story inside the complete Ballades.  I am mesmerised at the interpretation and the piano's support for the depth of contrast needed from what Chopin wrote.
This cannot be achieved on other pianos.  1 single note on Fazioli is enough to set its standard apart from the rest.  Let alone a breadth of repertoire from such celebrated composer.  I was romanced.

The night ended with 3 encores.  Nikolai was cheeky when he gave the popular Minute Waltz for the second encore.  Just a minute more I heard he says in his mind.

What a treat, definite moment of elevated bliss for the heart and soul.  Perfect instrument paired with the perfect maestro.
The programme






FREE PATTERN: Big Sweater Pattern


I had my reservation in posting this pattern I created because of the non-confidence in whether I made something worthy enough to be shared.  That is until two ladies from Masco Wools downtown Auckland convinced me that I need to even sell this pattern online as the end product looked good on me.  Of course I'm now inspired to write and make more intricate sweater with this pattern as a base.
Masco Wools downtown Auckland, NZ
What you need:
- set of circular needles, I used 3.00mm - 6.00mm set
- 2.50mm circular needles
- 2.75mm double pointed needles
- 3.00mm crochet hook
- about 2 skeins of 200gr 4 ply Naked Skeinz organic merino yarn
- stitch markers
- tapestry needles

Pattern:

Body
- CO 216 sts on 3.00mm circular needles, put marker at starting st, join in the round
- K1 in the round for 1 row
- Next row onwards for 10cm: K2, P4 in the round (rib st)
- When you reached 10cm, change gradually to larger needles, going up from 3.00mm to 3.50mm for the next row, then 4.00mm for the next row, and so on until you reach 6.00mm.  This is all done in K1 (stockinette st)
- Put marker halfway at 108 sts
- Knit till 58 cm
- Bind off at armpit, 12 sts each side (6 sts before and after marker)

Sleeves

- Use the 2.50mm circular needles
- CO 42 sts, put marker at starting st, join in the round
- K1 in the round for 1 row
- Next row onwards for 10cm: K2, P4 in the round (rib st)
- When you reached 10cm, use the double pointed needles to go up from 2.50mm needles to 6.00mm needles in stockinette st
- K1 till piece measures 18cm
 

Shape Sleeves
-  Increase round: continue in stockinette st, kfb (knit into front and back) into last 2 st [2 st increased]
- Repeat increase round every 15cm, 2 more times (at 33cm and 48cm) - 48 st total
- Continue to work in stockinette st without increasing until piece measures 63cm (I have long lean arms, measure from cast on edge to underarm, unrolled, the diameter of your arms at 3 major points where you need to increase when folded)
- Bind off using 3.00mm crochet hook, 6 sts before and after marker - 12 sts

Transfer sleeves to the body

- Decrease every 6 sts making sure it's K2tog at the sleeves' junctions
- Put 1 marker, now measure from here - 232 sts
- K1 in the round for about 5cm (about 7 rows)
- Decrease after every 6 sts, K2tog - 203 sts
- K1 in the round for about 5cm (about 9 rows)
- Dec after every 6 sts, K2tog - 177 sts
- K1 in the round for about 5cm
- Dec after every 10 sts, K2tog - 139 sts
- K1 for about 5 cm
- Dec after every 10 sts, K2tog - 108 sts (divisible by 6 for ribbing)
- Start rib pattern K2/P4 for 10cm (while you keep changing to smaller needles, till you use 3.00mm needles again)
- Then work reverse rib pattern of P2/K4 for 15 cm (while changing back to larger needles till you use 6.00mm needles again)
- Loosely bind off with 3.00mm crochet hook

Does it look as expensive as the Fazioli?
The length it goes up to (disregard my sneakers, I'd pair it up with high heel ankle boots or flat knee high boots)



Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Free Pattern: Simple Neck Warmer

7.00mm Pony bamboo straight knitting needles + 2 skeins Amuri 8 ply in Navy + 6 hours of alone time
Pattern:
CO 60st
*Knit till end of row, turn
K2 then purl till last 2st before end of row, K2, turn*
Rep. from * - *
Continue till desired length
Join both ends to make loop

Variation:
You can CO 120st and get more yarn to make the loop bigger and turn the neck warmer into a snood.

Single loop
Double loop
Worn double loop


Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Book Review: "1Q84" by Haruki Murakami

Front cover and binding
Back cover

 I read the blurb of this particular novel at the Hong Kong airport bookshop's rack back in April 2012.  That's right, I had to put the book on the rack for support as I read because it would just create too much scene if I had damaged it somehow by juggling my grip between my carry-on cabin bag and the 1157 pages thick novel.
So it was a pass for me.  I had a 6 year old girl that runs on solar power (and sugar fuel) with me, that was enough to occupy my entire time while waiting for the next flight.

Fast forward to 2015, that strange thick novel crept up in my head, it's been a while since "Cloud Atlas", so I ordered that 0.897 kg novel to be delivered.  Thank universe for technology.  

This Vintage International publication put the trilogy of 1Q84 into 1 "compact" book.  I agree with them that it is quite clever to do so rather than publishing it separately as Book 1, Book 2, and Book 3.  Which I have seen it done in other languages' publication.
That is right, 1Q84 was originally written in Japanese and has been translated into English (the one I read, if you have not yet established) and several other languages such as Chinese and Korean.
I must say that with each languages, translating such big works must have posed a degree of difficulty in emulating the Japanese emotion (or the non-emotion but the overflowing unspoken thoughts) and way of thinking.  Kudos to Jay Rubin and Philip Gabriel for undertaking such mammoth task and executing with finesse.

This book is in a class of its own and is by no way in comparison to the much hyped "50 Shades of Grey" although the author let us in on some insight on what the 1980's Roppongi was all about, but not too much as to be classified 'trash' or not recommended.  If you could not pass chapter 2 of "50 Shades of Grey" like me, then "1Q84" is the book for you.  It has no fluff and carries a book within a book.

If you do get the same copy as mine, you'll find the page numbers rather odd looking.  Almost as if it tries to play with the reader's perception.  Which reality are you in now?
Then on page 512, you're posed with the basic chicken and egg question on love.  I reckon that paragraph itself, right at the top of page 512 is the crux of every human being's problem and solution.  This is quite amusing if you do get a copy like mine because you'll find that that paragraph is located sort of almost right at the balance of the book when opened.  

Overall for me, this book is a very good read and quite easy to just cruise by it on a long weekend (I started on Friday and finished it Tuesday).  Perhaps because not only Murakami describe things so eloquently but also the fact that I can relate so much to the 1980's that it is as if I was in the characters themselves.
No wonder it is a national best seller, how I wish I continued with my Japanese and so to read it in its original version.


Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Free Pattern: Shoulder & Knee Warmer

This project is based on the Free Pattern "Amelia" by Drops Design.
Knee warmer as wrist warmer (my knee is the same size as my wrist???  apparently so...)

I didn't follow the instruction religiously as I felt that 2 strands of the yarn I have would be too bulky for something lacey.
Materials:
- 2 * 50gr Heritage certified organic merino 4 ply (for both shoulder and knee)
- 5.00 mm, 80 cm then change to 60 cm circular Karbonz knitting needle (for shoulder)
- 6.00 mm Tulip crochet hook (binding off shoulder)
- 2.50 mm, 25 cm circular Symfonie knitting needle (for knee)
- 2.50 mm Tulip crochet hook (binding off knee)
- stitch marker
- needle to stitch in ends

The set
On the knee, some on calf, all I need is the boots.
The alteration I did for the shoulder warmer was quite a lot because I realised as I'm only using 1 strand, it looked a bit small when going with their suggested stitches.  I added about 4 more repetition of the pattern only realising that it was a bit much and started decreasing on every knit row to keep the pattern looking as it supposed to be.
I added about 3 more repetition of the last pattern rows because I didn't want it to slip off my shoulder when worn.

For the knee, I casted on 68 stitches, and did the first pattern 6x instead of 4x as it was written.  Then I go on each pattern 1x and skipped pattern F.  I repeat G till the piece was around 25cm long.

Very simple project to do over a long weekend.  Enjoy!

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Free Pattern: Kim Kardashian's Beanie

There's a link to her written pattern on her youtube tutorial, which helped a lot in figuring out what to do.
 I used about 100gr of cashmere merino Zealana Yarn with 5mm Karbonz Knitpro knitting needles.

  
I'm liking the simpleness of the pattern, straight forward just follow each step and you'll be fine.
Yet to wear the beanie, but cuteness overload promised.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

KnitPro Waves Aluminium Hooks Set vs Tulip Etimo

Knitpro Waves
Tulip Etimo Rose
The test.  Who's the winner?
I bought the KnitPro Waves set for a hefty price, thanks to the exchange rate and the fact that it has to be imported to the country.  Packaging was ok, not flash, simple plastic window and zipper.  Nice colourful grip, very very light (aluminium) and nice sharp point.
Downside is when it was put to the test, it failed miserably.  Into row 4, I'm screaming in pain.  My wrist and the finger joints are writhing in pain wanting Tulip Etimo or a break altogether.  But I had to finish the test.  So I went on with it.  I have to admit, I did change a few times with the same size Tulip hook, but I found Tulip runs just a tiny bit "bigger".  Was it my imagination?

I'd say the winner is definitely Tulip Etimo Rose.  I bought it loose (without box and not as a set) probably second hand, as the grip on some of it was a tad dirty, hence the cheaper price. But I'm still in love with it.
I did the entire dress in the test with Tulip Etimo and I came out of it still wanting to crochet, I felt like an Energiser Bunny advertisement.  I can just keep going and going and going with Tulip.

Disclaimer:
This is just entirely based on the test and my opinion only.  Maybe it's different for others according to the size of their hands and their grip strength.  I like mine strong and steady, hence Tulip works really well since it's steel and provides a bit more weight onto my grip and I feel like I'm actually in control.  With KnitPro, I feel like it's too light to my liking hence I'm actually exerting more power on my grip that makes my wrist more tired.  It's a pity since I put high hopes on KnitPro.  Mind you, they do have other types available.  I'd label this Waves set "an expensive mistake" for me.

Free Pattern: The Owl (Dress) Pattern

The thing about crochet that my daughter always says is that it makes the wearer looks sexy.  That's why she's still opting to go with her plain T-shirt and leggings.
I have been wanting to find a great crochet dress pattern that is easy but not too easy that I became bored.
This owl (modified pineapple) pattern is just the solution for my need.
The person who made the pattern has a great youtube tutorial, although I did get lost from time to time, so I wrote down my own hack, especially for the underarm connection.  Instead of 23 chains, I made mine 33 chains.






My daughter did point out that after some time, I probably don't understand what I wrote.  So if you have any question, write me a comment and I'll see what I can remember.
 I used about 200gr of 30%Bamboo 70%Cotton yarn & 2.5mm Tulip hook.
The dress turned out more of a tunic.  A change to the pattern I'd like to make if I had enough yarn would be lengthening the sleeves.

Then I tried making a top for my daughter using the same type of yarn, about 100gr in ombre colour and a 3mm Knitpro Waves Aluminium Hook.
She doesn't wear blue, so I made another one in ombre yellow, about 100gr and I used a 2,5mm KnitPro Waves Aluminium Hook.
Given a bit more yarn in my stash, I lengthened the sleeves, stopping at the top part of the pineapple.
 As for the bottom part, I stopped at the eyes of the owl, since I was running out of yarn.

The verdict: Free pattern youtube tutorial helped a lot, but the crucial sleeves part need to be adjusted from case to case basis.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

"The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" (2013) Review

I finally saw Ben Stiller's "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" as per one of the reader's recommendation (*wink*).

"The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" is actually a short story written by James Thurber and was first appeared in The New Yorker in 1939.
A movie with the same name was made in 1947 with a plot line that was current for that time.
The 2013 movie was in the burner from 1994 with Jim Carrey in mind and somehow ended up with Ben Stiller cast in the lead and also directing.

It is one of those feel good movie for the zombies of this generation (i.e. 9am-8pm work time, no after hours bonus, go home, sleep, wake up, rinse and repeat generation) with breathtaking views of Stykkishólmur, a village on the Snæfellsnes peninsula in Iceland, Höfn, a village in southeast Iceland, Skogafoss waterfall and in Vatnajökull National Park.
The plot is current and simple as it revolves on the change that Walter Mitty is going through as an employee of Life magazine that is restructuring from print to online digital magazine.  As a negative assets manager, his job will no longer exists along with a bunch of others.

I would think that this movie would appeal to anyone who ever asks "What is their purpose of life".
The motto of Life magazine, inscribed inside the wallet given to Walter
It promises adventure and comedy, with a dash of innocent romance from a boring life of a negative assets manager going through restructuring.
This movie is certainly a graphical representation of what goes through the mind of a Mittyesque person.

With wanting love as the starting point, Walter ended up in places he never imagined before.  How many of us had really done that?  We often just say "NEXT" when the object of our affection presented us with a choice.

What I really love about this movie is the message that it carries.  Perhaps it awakens something in everyone differently.
Maybe the changes isn't going to be so rapid like Walter's but the only thing that's stopping the change from occurring would only be ourselves, as Walter clearly showed in the movie.


 

Friday, 28 November 2014

South Korea Plastics

I thought it was funny when my daughter saw that parody of what used to be cool then (during my time) and what is cool now.
For example, it was not cool during my time to wear glasses and have braces.  Now, they wear glasses without the actual lenses and wears stick on braces on their teeth because it means you have money to fix your teeth.

Back in my college years, I heard stories about how South Korean girls not recognising their friends after their summer holiday because they did the double eyelid job.  The emerging plastic surgery industry was just starting back then.  I thought it was a joke that teens and twenty something could be so unhappy with their appearance, they would drastically change it while still in the same community.

Now, that scenario is so real, I see the plastics everywhere on TV.  It seems like they come out of a plastic mold that has several variations only.
Not just on TV!!!  They are also everywhere in everyday life!!!
My ex-boyfriend's new girlfriend, I thought I saw her before somewhere.  I wonder why she looked familiar and why he was so angry when I was saying casually to him that this face that I have this lifetime is 100% original.    

What happened to drastic hair/fashion style change?
Perhaps piling on make up products is so passe that girls are now taking drastic measures.  I wouldn't be surprised of slumping sales figures of cosmetic companies.  In the future, the make up bottles would read: "Safe for plastics".

I cringed while reading one of the local paper's article today.  It read: "South Korea Surgery Holiday is Booming".  Hang on I thought, was that the agenda on free trade last month?
It talked about this girl who spent about USD 13,000 to go to Korea for holiday and 4 (yes, F-O-U-R) surgeries done.  No real name or pictures, of course.  However, the most cringe worthy paragraph was when she talked about how she doesn't mind walking around the malls after the surgery was completed with bandages on her face and thighs because she sees other "holiday makers" doing the same thing, too.
Whatever their motivation may be, I hope it's always for themselves to be a happier person.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

The Elephant in the Room


Last week, my daughter asked me what "Nobody talks about the elephant in the room." means.
Is there a real elephant?
Are there real people?
Is there really a room that can hold people and an elephant together?

This made me laugh, it reminded me of myriads of things I have been discovering as overseas born Chinese.

- Match Making
Love does not equal marriage, nor does the other way around.  You marry when she ticks all your boxes and she marries when you tick all her boxes, too.  Match maker gets paid, everyone leaves happy.
Love = something you have with mistresses
Marriage = boring old wife that once ticked all the boxes (nah, that's fixed with Korean face filling/lifting nowadays, so wife will always tick all the boxes, just gets a bit boring after a while.  We don't eat the same thing everyday three times a day, do we?  Huh?  Huh?)

- Mistress
Didn't the emperors from the Song Dynasty have a lot of concubines?  And two or three favourites because they would've bore sons for the emperor?
So should the men of today.  See, the first point of "match making", will eventually lead to this point of "mistress".
Since it is in woman's fate to either have a husband, or be a mistress, then the men will always thrive in this kind of tradition.
Give me a son, or else, I take in a "sister wife".
Give me a son, or else, I'll only make you as my mistress.
Give me a son, or else, don't call me again.
Then he says: "Sorry, you have a mistress fate, so I can never marry you.  But I will live close-by so we can stay friends and I can always fix your laptop even when your son in law is a computer whiz.   Because I love you, my mistress.".

- Calculating
If all of the above doesn't give away this third category, then I think you just never going to notice the elephant in the room.
You see, the one child policy (male heir) has proven to be burdensome to society now.  But back in the day, it was a much proven proud policy (discounting the endless case of female fetus found in soups or gutter).
See, if you have a female child, you'd feed her from child to adulthood, only to find her leaving to follow the husband's family.  In accounting, that's a big imbalance to the financial statement.  All these expenses, yet you lose the capital in the end.  That's why you need a son, then you'll gain another capital through the woman he brings in.
Don't forget the monthly installments to the parents for all the things they've done for you when you were young, jobless, wondering if you exists at all since you get praised for not speaking and smacked for telling them what's in your mind.

I pondered these points for a while now, since my parents had always been independent from my grandparents but yet they insisted on installing almost all points on me.
Did it skip a generation?  Because unconsciously their parents tried to force those upon them but failed as they got down to daughter/kid number 10?

So did anyone ever talked about the elephant in the room?
I did, I said, "Hey y'all, didn't you notice this thing in the room is huge?  Like maybe it's an elephant?  Let's talk about it!".

I tell you what happened next.  My mom shuts down (physically and mentally), my dad storms out of the room (almost all the time, even when I shut the door, it brought the Thor in him, out!).
Me, I took one look at this elephant, made it pink, and usher it out with me.




Monday, 29 September 2014

FREE PATTERN: Simple Kimono from Batik fabric


FREE PATTERN: Simple Kimono

This is a very simple kimono pattern from Elle Apparel that I love as my imagination can run like a wild horse if it wasn't for the Batik pattern fabric that I had to work with.
The pattern was too simple to work with plain fabrics as then I would itch to add belt, borders, pockets, collars, etc.
With batik, the challenge comes in lining up the pattern itself, or finding "the right fit" so as not to distort the beautiful pattern that already exists before cutting but enhancing it.