November 2012 Archives

Liverpool Biennial 2012

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Liverpool Biennial is an art programme and exhibition that is held every two years in Liverpool to celebrate art and culture. For ten weeks, the public can enjoy various works of art and art events around the city. This year, the event started in the middle of September and will finish at the end of November.

I've described a few of what I think are the most interesting artworks and installations this year.

"2-Way Mirror Cylinder Bisected By Perforated Stainless Steel" - Dan Graham
This artwork plays with perception of reality.

"An Offensive Object in the Least Offensive Way" - Runo Lagomarsino
This artwork was inspired by a statue of a macaw and an image depicting a macaw like in the sculpture and different interpretations of it.

"Belonging" - Patrick Murphy
Many brightly-coloured pigeons decorate the art gallery rooftop in Liverpool.

"Exile" - Jose Angel Vincench
This installation depicts those who have to flee their homes for political reasons.

"Vilnius - Black Pillow" - Audrius Bucas and Valdas Ozarinskas
This artwork features a huge, inflatable black pillow that is meant to represent the viewer's phenomenological experiences.

"Prototype for a Nonfunctional Satellite (Design 1, Build 1: 'The Kite') - Trevor Paglen
This artwork represents a satellite in its form, as sculpture only.

"Column" - Anthony McCall
A column made of cloud disappears into the sky.

"The Lift" - Oded Hirsch
A vintage lift appears to have lifted up from the floor in one of Liverpool's shopping malls. This work provokes the viewer to think based on how the space has been moved.

"Turning the Place Over" - Richard Wilson
A daring artwork that shows a building turned inside-out with a rotating doorway.

"But I'm on the Guest List Too!" - Elmgreen and Dragset
This installation examines celebrity culture and features a door slightly open but with a bouncer guarding it, which makes the viewer frustrated at the social advancement opportunities.


From top left: 
2-Way Mirror Cylinder Bisected By Perforated Stainless Steel
Vilnius - Black Pillow
The Lift
Turning the Place Over
But I'm on the Guest List Too!

Photographs are from the main Liverpool Biennal website ( The photograph of the pigeons is from the BBC (
I received a package a few weeks ago from "Vini and Bal's Rustic Indian", filled with their Indian cook-in sauces in their new and colourful rebranded packaging. (The brand "Rustic Indian" was formerly known as "Heavenly Curry", but they have rebranded but kept the sauce recipes the same.) 

I discovered these sauces a year ago at a London food festival, and I was really impressed with the quality and taste of the product. Normally, I find Indian cook-in sauces to be bland (and mild) or lacking in fresh ingredients with complimentary and authentic spices. These sauces impressed me because of the nice blend of spices and flavour (while keeping the ingredients fresh and natural). They are also quick and easy to cook with, with very little clean-up. This means that I don't have to do all of the work preparing the sauces, and I can eat a tasty and flavoursome curry in about thirty minutes.

"Rustic Indian" includes four different curry flavours made with traditional Indian recipes, which I have photographed below: Shahi (the most mild of the sauces), Fiery Mirchi (the most spicy of the sauces), Jeera (mild to spicy sauce), and Tharka (mild to spicy sace). Each sauce is its own unique blend of spices and ranges from very mild to spicy. Each cook-in sauce can be used to create a vegetarian or meat meal, depending on your preferences. 


The backs of the packaging contain recipe ideas, and the front gives an indication of what types of meat or vegetable goes well with the sauce. The sauces are gluten-free, use natural ingredients, and can serve up to four (though I personally found them to be the perfect size for two).

In today's blog entry, I will showcase two of these cook-in curry sauces: Shahi and Jeera. According to the packaging, "Shahi" means 'royal'. The curry is a mild one and has a delicious flavour. For this curry, I used chicken (as it is the only meat I eat) and petit pois (small peas).


I prepared some chicken, which I diced into small cubes. I also put about half of a cup full of peas over to the side to mix into the curry. In addition, I decided to make my Indian rice recipe to go with the curry. 

From top: the Shahi curry sauce, diced chicken, spices for the rice, and the opened packet of the cook-in curry sauce.

If you wish to have the Indian rice with your curry, you can make this quite easily too. I simply use the following spices: cinnamon stick, a few cloves, a couple of bay leaves, mace, a few green cardamon pods, and a black cardamon pod. I heat some walnut oil in a frying pan and place the spices in the oil for about a minute so that the spices are released. I then pour in some grains of white rice (I normally use just over 1/4th of a coffee cup of rice for two) and make sure that each grain is coated in the oil. I keep the spices in the pan. I add water and let this simmer with a lid on top for around twelve minutes. (I do keep testing the rice to see if it is cooked but not too cooked. I like my rice with a little 'bite' to it.)

The Indian rice is cooking with the spices.

When the rice has finished, simply remove the rice from the heat. Then, remove the spices from the rice and put the rice to the side while the curry finishes cooking. (Make sure you do not let this get too cold.)

The bowl of Indian rice.

To use the cook-in curry sauce, simply add the chicken and sauce together into a frying pan or wok. Mix this up and add the peas. Let this simmer and place a lid on top. The cook-in sauce makes the chicken very tender and delicious. Keep checking that the sauce does not overcook. Water can be added at any time if you feel that the sauce is getting too thick. However, by simmering it with a lid on, it should not 'dry out' as much. 

The chicken and peas are mixed with the "Rustic Indian" cook-in curry sauce.

Make sure that the curry is not over-cooked, and test that the chicken is thoroughly cooked and not pink inside. The package indicates that about thirty minutes is roughly the time it takes to cook when simmering. Keep an eye on this and make sure that the sauce doesn't over-cook, especially if you're simmering with a lid on the pan.

The curry looks and smells delicious, and it's nearly ready to remove from the heat.

Once the curry has finished and the chicken is cooked, remove from the heat. On slightly-heated or warmed plates, add the rice and curry. In the photograph below, this was one of two equal portioned servings. Doesn't it look delicious?

Serve up the curry and rice.

The Shahi curry has a wonderful blend of spices using a tomato base. I loved the delicious flavour of this curry, and the "Rustic Indian" cook-in sauce was so easy to prepare. It also did not take long to clean up the plates, wok, and spatula that I used. The cook-in sauce is perfect for busy people who lack the time to prepare delicious curries.

The second curry I will write about is the Jeera curry, which means "cumin". I've included the packaging photograph below. According to the packaging, the curry is mild but perhaps not quite as mild as the Shahi curry that I cooked above. I personally thought it was more mild than the Shahi cook-in sauce.

The Jeera cook-in sauce awaits.

For the Jeera curry, I cooked with chicken. I took a very yummy-looking photograph of the curry while it was cooking. 

The Jeera curry cooks with chicken.

For this curry, I also served rice and a couple of Indian 'starters' (from one of the supermarket chains) with the meal. The below photograph shows one of two plates that made the meal. 

Jeera chicken curry with rice and starters.

The Jeera was also delicious, although I preferred the Shahi cook-in sauce when comparing these two. I still have the other two cook-in curry sauces to discuss, so keep checking back for another blog entry. 

Visit their website:  
Visit their Facebook page: 

Have you ever had or tried the "Rustic Indian" (formerly "Heavenly Curry") cook-in fresh curry sauces? Let me know what you think by leaving me a message.
Selfridges is selling several designer Pudsey bears for the children's charity, "Children in Need". The bears were designed by 30 top designers and could be seen in the shop window in Selfridges from the end of October until the middle of November. The bears were on display until the 15th of November and were then auctioned off for "Children in Need." Designers included Louis Vuitton, Victoria Beckham, Alexander McQueen, Burberry, Prada, Paul Smith, and Gucci. Each designer had their own unique way to create their Pudsey, and different fabrics, colours, and materials were used in the design of each.

You can read more about the bears and the designers here:

From left to right:  Anya Hindmarch's Pudsey, Prada's Pudsey, Giles Deacon's Pudsey, Gucci's Pudsey, Siblings' Pudsey.

From left to right: Giles Deacon's Pudsey, Gucci's Pudsey, Louis Vuitton's Pudsey, Balenciaga's Pudsey

Weddings: Ian and Sarah's Bristol Wedding

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I went to a beautiful wedding in Bristol in early June this year. My friends, Ian and Sarah, decided to be the first group in a circle of friends to get married at the start of the wedding season; their big day was absolutely stunning. The wedding was held at a church in Clifton, Bristol. This was followed by a gorgeous reception party in a historic hall in Clifton. The bride was beautiful, and the groom was handsome. 

Despite a few drops of rain before the ceremony, we were surprisingly lucky with the weather. (In Britain, you never know exactly what the weather will do, but you always plan for rain.) I am happy that they had nice weather for their day, and although it was slightly overcast, this is actually perfect for photography. (In some of my wedding photos, the bright sun casted harsh shadows and made squinting eyes due to the brightness of the light.) I managed to get some excellent photographs of Ian and Sarah and their big day. 

The ceremony and reception were beautiful, and everyone had a great time. Well done, Ian and Sarah, and congratulations.

Ian and Sarah leave the church.

Ian and Sarah leave the church. Check out the beautiful detail on the wedding dress.

Sarah leaves the church with a group of guests poised on the stairs to throw confetti.

Another shot of the wedding dress and the beautiful lace and detail.

Sarah poses in her wedding car with her bouquet of flowers.

Ian and Sarah, the happy couple.

Ian and Sarah arrive at the reception.

Sarah speaks to her guests at the reception.

Sarah's parents arrived from Asia to attend their daughter's wedding. The wedding was a mix of Western and Eastern traditions and cultures. After posing for some photographs, Sarah changed into her second dress, a beautiful red and gold dress. The dress was worn for the remainder of the reception, meal, and the traditional Chinese tea ceremony. The bride and groom served their parents (and parents-in-law) traditional tea as a part of this ceremony.

Ian and Sarah and Sarah's parents.

Ian and Sarah chat at the reception before continuing with the reception celebrations, including the tea ceremony. Sarah pours a cup of tea for the ceremony.

Sarah and Ian serve Ian's parents tea.

After the tea ceremony, we were called into the dining room for the wedding meal. This included the traditional speeches, cake-cutting, delicious food, and a toast. Wedding favours were placed on each setting, and this included a selection of Chinese sweets, dried fruits, and nuts.

Table place settings and flowers. 

The wedding cake.

Ian and Sarah cut their wedding cake.

I hope you enjoyed these photographs. Again, congratulations to Ian and Sarah.
This past summer, I have been enjoying macaroons. I've never had them before earlier this year. There are many shops in London that sell these delicacies. I will call them delicacies as the macaroons are very light, full of flavour, and they do cost quite a bit. Apparently, they are a little difficult to make as well. I've never tried to make my own, but with the light and airy 'coating' and the delicious filling, I can only imagine that these must be a little difficult to make (and to look nice).

Macaroons come in all sorts of colours and flavours (from rose to chocolate to green tea), and they look like works of art. Brightly-coloured macaroons can be bought at a number of places in London. 

Pierre Hermé sells macaroons in Selfridges in London. This seller, from Paris, has been making macaroons since the 1970s. They have favourites and introduce new flavours, depending on when you visit. I tried a box and hand-picked a few different flavours based on what sounded good. Most of these were absolutely delicious, light and melted in my mouth. (The only one I personally was not keen on was the caramel, as I found it a little bit too strong and salty for my taste.)

The macaroons came in a little box, which I thought was very cute and quirky, featuring drawn images of London imagery (Big Ben, red buses, royal guard, Buckingham Palace, etc). I also loved the bag that they put the box in. The bag had punched-out diamond-shaped holes. (You can see the box and the bag in the photographs below.)

A macaroon from Pierre Hermé

I love this packaging from Pierre Hermé

A chocolate macaroon with the Pierre Hermé branding.

The beautiful macaroons

A two-tone colour macaroon with a close-up of the packaging

A plate of macaroons

A plate of macaroons

'On Cookery School' (On Cafe) also provide London with macaroons. These are sold at the market on South Bank. They also offer classes on making macaroons. I purchased an offer this summer, and I received a box of 18 macaroons. There were three flavours in the box: chocolate, latte, and Japanese Obuku peach. I loved all of the flavours, including the latte, (which I had initially worried about as I'm not a coffee-drinker). 

'On Cookery School' selection of macaroons

'On Cookery School' selection of macaroons

L'orchidee also offer a selection of macaroons, and I purchased a small box of these while I visited Westfield Stratford in London. (Their website is: I bought only a small selection of the range. Each were delicious, but a description of the flavours written down in the front of the case would have been nice as there were so many flavours to chose from and I had to have the seller repeat the flavours a couple of times.

A box of macaroons from L'orchidee

The colourful packaging; the box came in a nice cloth bag that advertised Westfield Stratford as well.

 Do you love macaroons? Let me know if you have a preferred macaroon-seller in London.

Baking Snickerdoodle Cookies

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A friend gave me a recipe this past summer for Snickerdoodle cookies. (These are my favourite type of cookie, and cookies are a weakness of mine.) For those who do not know, a Snickerdoodle cookie is made of shortening, egg, flour, and sugar, and it is coated with cinnamon and sugar to give it a sweet taste. I decided to give the recipe a try, and the resulting cookies were delicious. I had so many cookies that some of them went with me to work and were shared. 

The ingredients for the Snickerdoodle cookies is mixed.

The dough is rolled into balls and coated with sugar and cinnamon.

The cookies are fresh out of the oven.

A few of the cookies await their fate after having cooled down.

A Sneak Peek at the New Web Design

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Hello visitors! I have been keeping this quiet, mainly because I have been putting my focus on work tasks over my personal projects recently. I had started a new design earlier in the year and had made some good progress on it early this spring. (I know, that is quite a while ago and it does seem to be the norm that a developer's/designer's or company's website takes a back seat while other work has been completed. I have seen this and experienced it numerous times.)

However, a few more hours spent last weekend, and my new design is now fully responsive. It looks good in IE8, IE9, Chrome, and Firefox. (IE7 does have a few issues that I need to sort out.) I still have to work on the body content and some integration with the blog, but a good chunk of my work will be some code reuse PHP database calls for my portfolio content. The sneak peak screenshot is below. (Obviously, there's the bits I need to fit in to the main content area and a few minor design tweaks.)


I've decided to give my new design a 'vintage' treatment, and I am in love with some of the vintage fonts that are available. In fact, I've used a few of them for this website, combining Google Fonts and CSS Fonts and FitText.js for responsive font displays. I've also used other vintage design elements.


Like my previous portfolio web designs, I have tried to create a neutral design, but I have also tried to give it some colour. I'm conscious that I do not want the design to overpower my portfolio pieces, so the primary colours must be neutral. 

The other element that I have focused on is making my design responsive. The current design is ancient; I designed it in early 2006 while I was living in Bath. Unfortunately, the idea was half-baked, and I was never happy with it as I rushed to launch it in early 2007. I actually prefer the previous design, and I still do. In early 2006, the world was not too concerned with mobile devices, and iPads were not even invented then. Now, these other devices are important to design for. Below is the design for the website that fits on a mobile device, such as an iPhone.


The image below is what my visitors will see if they visit using an iPad. (In both this image and the one above, visitors will be able to see more body text. I just don't really have that area designed yet enough to give it justice, so I cropped it from the images.)


I've included some screenshots of my previous portfolio designs below so that you can see the evolution. I started off with the neutral folder-like appearance, then I added colour and new fonts to each section. (Sorry that some of the images are broken; these images are from I then decided to create a pixel-art-inspired design with buildings that visitors could click on the images of to go 'inside' to see more about the projects. The design was featured in the four seasons. 


I am happy with my new design. What does everyone think? Leave me a message and let me know.

A Tribute to Chaucer at Aldgate

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A new structure, known as Paleys upon Pilers, has been erected at Aldgate in London to commemorate the poet Geoffrey Chaucer. The structure, built by Studio Weave (, was also built for the Olympic games as the gateway that leads from the City to the Olympic Park in Stratford.


Chaucer was a famous resident of this area in London. He lived in rooms above Aldgate from 1374 to 1386. Aldgate ("old gate") was one of the famous gates of London, at a time when London was surrounded by city walls. The gate was built in Roman times and was demolished in 1761. The structure stands in the place of Aldgate.

The structure was inspired by two poems that Chaucer wrote, "The House of Fame" and "The Parliament of Foules". The poems describe large structures, and they were written by the poet while he lived in Aldgate.

The structure was on display over the summer. I also snapped a photograph of a colourful bus, below, as it drove past the structure. It is amazing to think that the old walls of London rose on this point and that the old city gate filled this now-empty area. These days, there are very few places where you can see any remains of the old city walls, and the old city's gates are all but forgotten.


Modifying Web Text (Based on Browser Size)

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My article today focuses on making text attractive in different browser sizes. With the popularity of tools to help developers create responsive websites, the ability to display fonts based on browser size is important. Obviously, you don't want your fonts to be massive on a mobile device but looking awesome and perfect in your 1024x786 desktop browser size. (I'll just add a note here that this is an article that is long overdue as I've been planning to write on this topic for a while.) Without further hesitation, I bring to you FitText.js. 

Before I dive in, I just wanted to state that this solution is not meant to be used for paragraph text. Because it uses Javascript to render the font, this solution is meant to be used sparingly, such as in the main header tag only. With this solution and any solution that renders font using Javascript, users who do not have Javascript enabled will not see the font in its styled glory. Another problem that some users may experience is FOUT (flash of unstyled text) as the page loads, before the Javascript loads for the first time. (While Javascript is meant to be loaded at the bottom of the page, developers may want to try to put the Javascript at the top of the page to see if it reduces FOUT.)

FitText uses jQuery to change the size of the font dynamically, depending on the size of the browser.  

To implement FitText.js, complete the four simple steps below:

1. Load the jQuery and FitText Javascripts at the bottom of the page. 

2. Add the headers that you wish to use FitText on for dynamic resizing based on the browser size.
<h1 id="fittext1">Squeeze with FitText</h1>
<h1 id="fittext2">Squeeze with FitText</h1>

3. Add your CSS style for the headers, specifying the largest font size that you wish to display in the largest browser size initially. In the README file, it is stated to ensure that you include the display and width options below. (For display, you can use inline-block too.) Make sure you set a default font size, as this acts like the default fallback option in case Javascript is disabled.
h1 {
text-align: center;
font: 70px/1 "Arial";
display: block;
h2 {
text-align: center;
font: 50px/1 "Arial";
display: block;

4. Underneath the Javascript libraries, include the Javascript to render the fitText() method on the header elements. The fitText method can take various parameters. One parameter is to ensure that the text resizes/compresses more or less aggressively. (In the example below with the H2 tag, I used '2', which would make the text shrink more aggressively.) You can also set minimum font sizes and maximum font sizes.
<script type="text/javascript">
$("h2").fitText(2, {minFontSize: '10px', maxFontSize: '50px' });

Pros: Provides a good solution for dynamic font sizes across multiple devices with minimal effort.
Cons: This requires Javascript in order to render and work correctly, but when using Javascript, you should always have a fallback option in place.

To see an example, visit the FitText website at [] and click on the 'Download' link to view an example and the README files.

Are you currently using FitText.js? Have you had any problems with it? Let me know how you get on with it.

I made a trip to Derbyshire at the beginning of the Olympic celebrations this summer. The first stop was Derby, which I found to be quite attractive and historical. I enjoyed the variety of shops here, and the city was also decorated for the Olympic games and Diamond Jubilee.

Derby is decorated for the Olympics

Iron Gate sign in Derby

Sunflowers in Derby

Florist shop in Derby

After visiting the city of Derby, I visited the Heights of Abraham in Derbyshire. The attraction has a couple of caverns to visit, and the caverns were used in the mining days. There's a cable car ride to the top with excellent views over Matlock Bath. A restaurant and stone/fossil museum is also at the top of the hill, and visitors have numerous trails that they can walk along.

Ribor Castle from the Heights of Abraham

Cable Cars - Heights of Abraham

After visiting the Heights of Abraham, I visited the Tramway Museum. A museum and several sheds of trams from all over the world could be seen here, and visitors could ride on a selection of trams. The trams went through mock village streets and past an old sweet shop and buildings. A classic MINI event was happening when I visited with MINI cars in the old village setting.

MINIs at the Tramway Museum, Derbyshire

A tram number, Tramway Museum in Derbyshire

Symbol on a Russian tram

Two trams on the tracks at the Tramway Museum, Derbyshire

BoxPark, "The Art of Winning"

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I made a trip to BoxPark ( in Shoreditch at the end of June. BoxPark normally has artwork hanging on the sides of the shipping container blocks (what BoxPark's shops are made from), and due to the Olympic games, the artwork features was Olympic-themed.


The exhibition, 'The Art of Winning', was on display, featuring fourteen posters designs from fourteen different artists. According to the blog on BoxPark's website:

"This summer at the London 2012 Summer Olympics, athletes from around the globe will be competing for medals, but for the rest of us, medals are not the reward. The reward is knowing we've got the best out of ourselves through years of hard work, dedication and more hard work. Winning feels good but it doesn't come easy."

The artwork was displayed throughout July.



Artwork by Anna See and Viv Strauss

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Viv Strauss creates artwork with oils, and some of these feature groups of cats and others feature groups of people. The artwork is normally very busy. The below artworks feature whimsical illustrations of cats.


Vis Strauss' other style of artwork features a little more detail, such as the works below.


To see more from Viv Strauss, visit her Etsy page:

Anna See creates works of art featuring different subjects: buildings, fashion, and animals. Some of her artwork has been displayed in magazines and online websites. Examples of her work are below, including a building illustration and another illustration featuring fashionable women's shoes.


Anna See's collection includes various animals and Chinese animal year's, such as the racoon and 'Year of the Rabbit' below.


Some of the artwork involves several different types of birds, such as the cardinal below.


To view Anna See's artwork, go to:

Days Out: Hever Castle

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Hever Castle is located in Kent, England. This castle was the childhood home of Anne Boleyn, second wife of Henry VIII. I studied Tudor History and wrote a paper about Anne Boleyn at university, so I was interested in the history. Visiting also made me appreciate what I had studied many years ago. Visitors to the castle can see Anne Boleyn's room and the room where Henry VIII stayed when he visited her.

I visited Hever Castle and Gardens at the beginning of August. The castle, which is smaller than I imagined it would be, is surrounded by a moat. The grounds in front of the castle are beautiful with topiary hedges shaped in many different types of animal and chess pieces. The grounds also contain various gardens, a Yew maze, and a boating lake. The Italian Gardens make up one of the main gardens in the castle grounds, and they reach to the lake with excellent views and sculptures. There is also a water maze available, but this is for children.

Hever Castle buildings.

View of the moat and buildings outside Anne Boleyn's room.

Chess pieces made from hedges.

Hever Castle gardens.

The lake (with rowboats and pedal boats) at Hever Castle gardens.

Hever Castle Italian Gardens

Lavender in Hever's Castle Italian Gardens.

I hope you have enjoyed my photograhs of Hever Castle and gardens.


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