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blogging about blogging

Viral Bacterial

So good news and bad news.

The bad news is that the blog has contracted some terrible illness and has been directing you guys to a dubious Russian site the past day and a half. There’s apparently a virus/worm/hack thing going on and because I don’t speak geek and is therefore no match for a nerdy teenager with douchey headphones and week-old pizza, my only conceivable response involves some hand-wringing and shrieking for help.

Fortunately the husband knows a little geek-talk, so he’s been working with our web hosting people to sort out the issue. The good news is that it finally seems to be back up again for now. We’re keeping our fingers crossed that it stays that way because the truth is, we’re no match for them hackers. If they’re like Obi-Wan Kenobi with advanced Jedi mind powers, the husband is like a young Padawan who can only levitate small objects. While I can only do the standing around and shrieking like Natalie Portman.

And it’s not for a lack of trying either. I spent the better part of yesterday googling key phrases like “help my blog is hacked” and “how to get rid of malicious files in your website” but none of the results proved very useful.

I mean, it’s not like computer code is the easiest thing in the world to decipher. It’s just a bunch of random alphabets that don’t make any sense. We were doing a live chat with the web hosting company and I could barely make out half of what they were saying.

There were all these words like wtlsl, html and php flying around. Ok, first of all, WHERE ARE YOUR VOWELS? And how on earth am I supposed to understand what these words mean?

You know what? Pfffffffpt right back at you.

So anyway, most of the malicious files have been removed but because the site has just recovered from a major surgery, there’s probably still going to be a few kinks to work out over the next few days. Thanks for your patience, we’ll get things back to the way they were soon enough. If you still have difficulties accessing the site, go do some online shopping and come back tomorrow.

PS. If by any chance, you’re the one trying to hack the site, please don’t. I’ll buy you some fresh pizza and make non-vowel grunting sounds back at you if it makes you feel better.

PPS. The virus seems to have jumped onto the husband because his Jedi powers aren’t strong enough. He’s now down with a different but equally terrible illness that has him hacking (*ahem pun intended*) his lungs out at home. So it seems to have gone viral.

PPPS. I’m also throwing in a cute photo of the kids to cheer everyone up a little.

awards i forced myself to win, blogging about blogging

Tanks, everybody, tanks!

Happy weekend, all. Today’s a special Sunday edition because I’ve got some awesome news to update. I don’t really have a smartass way to say this so I’ll get right to it. Yesterday, the results of the Annual Singapore Blog Awards were announced and I came home with the Best Family Blog Award. Yayy!!

It was held at Shanghai Dolly, where everyone was all dressed up and very polished so I tried my best to not look goofy. Obviously not very successful.

Photo courtesy of Andy (www.sengkangbabies.blogspot.com)

Here’s a quick thank you to all the people who made this possible.

First, the kids, who gamely smiled (sometimes) and posed for every photo shoot. They’re the stars of the blog and without them, I’d still be a minion at a job I wasn’t very good at. Now at least I’m a minion at a job I love very much. They make my world spin and my days complete. Mommy loves you guys.

The husband, who’s my biggest fan and my best friend. These days, our date nights are spent behind our respective laptops with conversations that consist of monosyllabic grunts. I love that we can talk through the night and also sit together without talking through the night.

Every single one of you who drop by the blog and keep coming back. Your comments and support make me want to sit at the laptop at 3am in the morning to finish editing photos and write through every writer’s block.

Not forgetting all the other 9 finalists of the Best Family Blog category. It’s stressful going up against some of the best parenting blogs in the region and I had a great time meeting all the people whose blogs I spend so much time reading.

And finally, to OMY for putting it all together.

blogging about blogging

Photography 101

I never thought I’d be doing a post on photography because I’m hardly what you call an expert. Even enthusiast would be pushing it because I’m admittedly no shutterbug.

Back in NTU, I did do an obligatory course on photography (it was 202 for all the CS folks) where we all had to present our pictures to the class at the end of the course. Everyone had these artistic shots with brilliant lighting and composition while mine was truly appalling. It was like rows of bananas (I know, like what??) and as if to prevent my awful shots from mauling their eyes, I had to distract them by going on about capturing the mundaneness of everyday life; seeing the beauty in the ordinary blah blah blah. After the presentation, I turned to the husband (back then, just the boyfriend) and said “that was terrible wasn’t it?” and he paused for a moment then replied, “um, yeah babe, but hey, you’re really good at other stuff!”

Right then, I decided that this thing called “the eye for photography”, I didn’t have it.

But it’s probably a mothering thing, this need to capture the moments of your kids’ lives. Which is the main reason I decided to pick up a camera again. Recently, I’ve had a few emails from readers asking for photography tips and while I can’t give you guys professional photography lessons, there are several things I’ve learnt from other photographers that may be helpful to you. Most of these I’ve learnt from observing others (which is the best way to learn really) and handy tips others have shared.

1. Get a DSLR camera.

I know it’s pricey and bulky and complicated and a pain to learn andall that, but all good photographers will tell you that getting a DSLR is the best investment they’ve made. I’m not saying that a point and shoot can’t take good shots but there’s a limit to the things it can do, especially when it comes to shutter speed and aperture. In that one-second lag using a p&s, the moment would have passed and you’d end up with a blurry photo. When I use a p&s, I’m always going “WAIT HANG ON DON’T MOVE… GAH DO THAT AGAIN!” and there’d be another mass of blur. A DSLR can perform spectacularly in low light settings and capture those wonderful moments even when the kids refuse to sit still for a shot. I’ve given up asking them not to move so I take 10 shots in succession and usually, one will be good.

On the topic of price, you can easily start out with a secondhand Canon 400D that costs $380 and a Canon 50mm f1.8 that costs an additional $90 from Clubsnap. That’s about the price of a point and shoot. Instead of spending $3000 to get a brand new top of the line DSLR set, go easy and only when your needs/abilities outgrow your body and lens, upgrade them along the way.

2. Practice, practice, practice.

Honestly, the best way to learn is to keep taking shots. Experiment with different camera angles, focal lengths, apertures and compositions to see what works best. Try standing up, squatting down or even lying on the floor. Shoot from the front, the back, the side, the top and bottom. There’s really no hard and fast rule, so try to capture the feeling rather than worry about a set of rules.

3. Learn from the experts.

The other best way to improve your photography is to observe and learn from the best. My personal favorites are Ree Drummond, Kelle Hampton and Mckmama. Sometimes, I even select their best pictures and print out tearsheets when I go out for my shoots so that I can try and replicate the compositions and style. And no, that’s not technically cheating, just learning.

4. Try not to shoot on automatic mode.

Ideally, manual mode is the way to go because the pictures tend to look a bit flat if you’re on auto all the time. Manual works great for landscape shots but I still find it too tricky when I’m shooting moving objects, which I typically set to aperture priority (Av). Also, try to manually adjust the focal point instead of leaving it on auto so you can select the spot you want to focus on. Most of the time, I set it on the kids’ eyes so that it’s tack sharp unless I’m trying to highlight what they’re doing or what’s in their hands, then I adjust accordingly.

5. Styling.

This, I learnt looking at Kelle Hampton’s pictures. Her girls are always dressed up so beautifully and decked out in all kinds of pretty accessories. There’s a lot of behind-the-scenes effort to make the pictures really pop. Especially with girls, you can go all out with the hair clips, sunglasses, hats, pins and necklaces, remembering that it’s ok to be a little flamboyant because that makes a photo stand out a lot more than messy hair and boring old discolored rompers that have been worn by their previous 5 siblings.

After a while, you’ll be able to tell which angles work best for your kids. Unless both sides of their face are symmetrical (hellooo Jude Law), there’s usually a side that shows up better in pictures. Find that side and work it. After all, a good photo brings out the best qualities of a person.

Usually, baby girl hates having stuff jabbed into her hair but this one lasted a while before she yanked it off.

6. Lightroom.

Purists will say that editing a photo is cheating but until the day my skills are badass enough for me to look at a shot straight out of camera and go “man, that is one hell of a good shot!”, I’ll have to touch up the pictures. For me, Adobe Lightroom serves that purpose very well. A lot use Photoshop but I find that Lightroom is easy enough to learn and powerful enough to do a great job. Again, there’s a lot of trial and error here. I usually look at an example of a good photo and try to replicate it by adjusting the lighting, contrast, vibrance, cropping, etc. There are also tons of Lightroom presets you can use to make your job easier.

This is a before/after comparison of an earlier shoot. Out of camera, it was ok at best. It was underexposed, the shot composition was weirdish, and the colors were too dull but with a bit of Lightroom tweaking, it popped.

These are just some of the basics to get you started but the important thing is to practice and enjoy it. Give it a shot!

awards i forced myself to win, blogging about blogging, i embarrass myself sometimes

I promise to be more *insightful* from now on. Or less. I’m not sure.

Just found out yesterday that I made it into the top 10 finalists for SG Blog Award’s Most Insightful blog category.

Kelvin: Congrats, you made it into the top 10 for Most Insightful.

Me: For real? Most insightful? There’s hardly any insight in the blog. I think at some point they’ll realize they’ve made a terrible mistake.

Kelvin: Don’t feel bad. How *not* to be a parent counts as insight too.

Me: Thanks hon, you always make me feel so much better.

And then it degenerated into banality about how Truett was spitting out his food again, which you probably don’t want to hear about.

In any case, be prepared for some major insight in the next few weeks just so that I don’t get disqualified from the category completely. Because I did my homework and checked out the rest of the blogs there and I realized that they actually do give insight on stuff like dating and health and technology and here I am flooding you with photos of my kids. So I’ll be loading up on some serious insight here from now on.

What the heck, I might as well start now. Did you know that an ostrich’s eye is bigger than its brain? Because it is. There, you’re welcome.

I’m not very good at this insight stuff, I’m still working on it.

Anyway, in exchange, you’ll have to promise to vote for me. Ok, stop it, I can see your eyes rolling back into your head. I’m not done yet. You’ll have to promise to vote for me everyday. I told the husband to promise and he was all like “WHAT?! it’s so troublesome. I don’t even read your blog everyday.” Which is the point I banned him from surfing his Arsenal blogs until he voted me for. I also hinted at the possibility of some serious boom-chica-wow-wow action but he knows he’ll be getting some regardless. The guy has got some serious moves. Ok, too much information, I’ll stop now.

But seriously, if you like the blog enough, you can head over to OMY to vote and I’ll be eternally grateful. If not, I’ll probably end up as the only blog without any votes, which will be reminiscent of that time in Primary School where I had this sing-off competition with another girl during Music Class and after I was done, nobody voted for me because my friend said it sounded “really awful and she was saving me from further embarrassment“. Worst thing was, I didn’t even want to sing in the first place but after that, I hid in a hole for a few days and I’ve never sung in public again, not even in Karaokes. True story.

Oh, while you’re at the voting, there are some other superb blogs  in some of the other categories which I’m sure you’ll like and you can vote for them too.

1. Best Individual Blog – ED Unloaded

2. Best Lifestyle Blog – Miss Glitzy (my schoolmate!) &  Story of Bing

3, Best Photography Blog – Hendra & Leonny

4. Best Food Blog – Camemberu

blogging about blogging, Kidspeak, side effects of motherhood

Talk to the hand

The toughest part about being a stay home mom has gotta be the death of adult conversation (No, not THAT kind of adult conversation). Me, I’m a conversation junkie, so its like taking away heroin from an addict or candy from a kid.

I used to play this game when I was a kid where everyone keeps quiet and the first person to speak loses. I majorly sucked at it. I was always the kid that had to say something first. Or else I would go into withdrawal and start twitching uncontrollably. Anyway, awkward silences make me nervous.

Now, there’s just complete silence at home, except for my son’s occasional shrieks (mostly in the key of E minor), which I have successfully tuned out as ambient noise. There isn’t any office gossip, juicy updates or intelligent conversation to go around (Tru, mama thinks you’re a genius, but I just need some time to decode the shrieks), and my brain feels like its gone into permanent hibernation.

When it gets really bad, I sometimes go on a 2-hour soliloquy. I also talk to the ants (before I crush them), birds (mostly curses), and other animals unfortunate enough to venture into my house. But the satisfaction is just not the same. There’s also a nasty side effect. I get so used to talking to inanimate objects that I forget I’m doing it outside sometimes, which makes me look like a total fruitcake.

And so I write. But it’s still a monologue, with the occasional response from you nice people. It’s kind of depressing, really. Now I know why people go for those extortionate chat lines that charge you $50 an hour. The only thing that stopped me was the long and unpleasant conversation I would have with the husband after he finds out.

So do me a favor. Send a little conversation my way so I don’t go down the slippery slope of schizophrenia.