A Recipe: Hedgehog Shortbread Cookies

chocolate_hedgehog_shortbread_cookies_sophia_hsin-7

I have found in life that art happens during unexpected moments. For example, it happens through an idea you get on your morning walk. It happens during a conversation over Chinese noodles or on a day when your shoot gets canceled on account of rain. Art happens in those times when you find yourself stuck indoors, with no photos to edit and your to-do list (almost) done aside from figuring out your taxes.

That’s when you know you need to bake cookies. Because art is like a cookie monster. When you hear the cookie monster rumbling, you gotta feed it. Preferably hedgehog cookies.

So here they are. Brown, crunchy,  irresistible little devils covered with toasted pecans and chocolate. 100% hard work and 100% worth it.

chocolate_hedgehog_shortbread_cookies_sophia_hsin-2
Sightless hedgehogschocolate_hedgehog_shortbread_cookies_sophia_hsin-101.jpg
Not anymore

You will need:

• 1 cup non-salted butter
• 3/4 cup sugar
• 1 large egg
• 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
• 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
• 1 tsp baking powder
• 1/4 tsp salt
• dark chocolate chips
• finely chopped toasted pecans

Directions:

1. Cream butter and sugar in mixing bowl. Add egg and vanilla. Mix well. Add in dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, and salt. Add to wet ingredients and mix well.

2. Form cookies. Use an ice cream scoop if you’d like. Roll into ball form, forming one pointed end. Space out the cookies as they expand! Bake at 375 degrees for 8 minutes or when they are light brown on the bottom. Cool on rack.

3. Melt chocolate chips in the microwave (use 30-second intervals). Dip or cover hedgehogs with chocolate. Use a spoon to cover with crushed nuts. Scoop remaining chocolate into bag and pipe two eyes and one nose.

4. Enjoy!

chocolate_hedgehog_shortbread_cookies_amelia_hedgehog-2

* Makes around two dozen hedgehogs
* For nut-free version substitute nuts with graham crackers

chocolate_hedgehog_shortbread_cookies_amelia_hedgehog-1

Passing these out at my Amelia Hedgehog Book Signing. If you are in Vancouver July 21st do show up for one and come say hello!

Till next time.

Advertisements

Five Tips for Travelling Light

I have found in all my travels that I have never regretted packing light. There is a certain joy in knowing you have everything you need—or perhaps less than you think you need—on arrival at your destination ready for adventure and wonder.

So here are my five tips for traveling light—for short trips, long trips, backpacking trips or trips with a furry friend.

lojel_travel_sophia_hsin-8.jpg

1. Do your research
Head to the library and get a travel guide, learn the customs, get your shots, reach out to make a local friend, plan for all sorts of weather and plan for surprise.

lojel_travel_sophia_hsin_photography

2. Simplify your outfits
I stand by the belief that a monochrome wardrobe is the way to go. Throw in a few pairs of jeans and choose pieces with textiles that breathe and dry well. Figure out the balance between casual and professional. A few things I never travel without: basic white shirts, running shoes, comfy yet professional pants (even better with pockets) and—if necessary—a dress for special occasions.

3. Skip the essentials
There is a tendency to pack everything you can imagine for unexpected situations on the road. I have found that extra battery packs, Q tips, toiletries or vitamins tend to weigh me down on the trip and return home unused.

Surprisingly, in most countries (especially Asia)—you are always able to find daily necessities, toiletries, and medication that meet your needs. India has pharmacies with selections that are second to none and able to treat any kind of ailment, though I advise bringing a local friend to help you with labels that get lost in translation. Save on your travel budget, luggage space and purchase what you can on location.

lojel_travel_sophia_hsin-1.jpg

4. Pack within a pack
I have found that separating the contents of my suitcase into individual packs helps with space and organization. There’s lots of great garment cases or packing cubes out there that you can use to organize all your worldly treasures.

5. Leave space for wonder
It is a wonderful feeling knowing you have space in your luggage for gifts and souvenirs—be it the Mexican dog sculpture you find at a market in Bali, an antique sculpture in Bangladesh or simply space to store your experiences and all the wisdom of the world.

doggo-2
Go somewhere, be a tourist in your own city, take off to come home again and don’t forget to travel light.

Photos of me by Alisha Weng
Written by Sophia Hsin for Lojel Travel
Subedited by Megan Jenkins

Say Hello to A Hog Named Bob

bob_the_hedgehog_sophia_hsin-1.jpg

Hello!

A little update from Taiwan. Today was a very special day. I traveled out of Taipei into Keelung and came home with a new friend — Bob the Hedgehog!

I realized there will never a time when I feel ready enough for many things. Things like new cities, new beginnings or new pets. But the beauty of life is to make up your mind and move forward with complete courage while expecting the very best.

Taipei will be the eighth city I call home in my many years of life. I have never known where I am heading next and I figured that’s the way it will always be. Moving around so much also made me realize the importance of being present, of making home wherever I am, and to accept every challenge that comes up with a fully committed heart. Sometimes those decisions involve hedgehogs.

So now, I am excited to call this city home and look forward to what I can create here. I know there will always be limits that come with each place like geographic location, industry, and culture. But right now, I look forward to growing lots in this season — in boldness, in creativity, in kindness, and to believe that there is nowhere in the universe to be now but here.

With that being said, here are photos documenting this special day with Bob.

keelung_harbour_taiwan_基隆港_sophia_hsin-5A rainy day at Keelung Harbour. This was the city where I lived and attended music school. The concrete building on the right was where I held my elementary graduation concert.bob_the_hedgehog_sophia_hsin-4.jpg
Meeting Bob — the lightest colored hog among his siblings. Basically love at first sight.bob_the_hedgehog_sophia_hsin-2.jpgTiny Bob. Born December 12, 2017. Two days after Amelia left for heaven and a week away from my birthday. His hedgehog coloring is classified as “milk tea” or “white chocolate”. Both delicious.bob_the_hedgehog_sophia_hsin-3.jpgTo new amigos!

Postcards from New York II

sophia_hsin_new_york_washinton_square_park-13
A quiet moment from Washington Square Park, NYC

Hello from Taipei, Taiwan!

I have this funny feeling that I have to be in a new city before I can process and write about the previous one. It is wonderful being back in Taipei. There is much inspiration in revisiting old places and some days it feels like I never left. Although it is interesting living in the grey area between a local and a foreigner — I have never felt more clarity that I am in the right city at this time of my life.

This season will be spent working on a personal projects (hint: hedgehog book) while taking on freelance photo shoots. Between jet lag, stuffing my face with Taiwanese eats, waking up super early and navigating this familiar and unfamiliar city — I am slowly discovering a handful of local and international creatives. Excited for the next season and trying not to book a flight to Japan anytime soon.

sophia_hsin_new_york_statue_of_liberty_pier_-2.jpg
Sunset with Lady Liberty from Brooklyn Bridge Park
Now, back to New York City — the city of creativity, art, thunderstorms, scorching metro systems, and galleries you can spend a lifetime exploring with crowds as dense as any major Asian city.sophia_hsin_new_york_yoko_kato_long_island_city-8sophia_hsin_new_york_yoko_kato_yokocca-9Studio visits with @yokocca
I love a social media friendship turned into an afternoon of conversation with homemade jam and chiffon cake. It was a delight being able to visit Yoko’s studio tucked away across the water in the quiet of Long Island City. yoko_kato_japan_new_york_city_family_portrait-1Akari and Kaisei are the most adorable active kids. I could have spent a long time taking photos of them.della_orrey_c3_brooklyn_new_york_portraits_photography-1Portraits with Della
Della Orrey — my boo, talented musician friend and sister in Christ. It was inspiring getting to see her work at C3 Brooklyn. Getting to experience New York from a local’s perspective was also an eye opening experience though I got reprimanded a couple of times for being too much of a tourist 🙂Hanging with the talented Mark Leubbers at Le Labo in Williamsburgsophia_hsin_new_york_queens_-6Chasing light on the streets of New York. The light and shadow on fire escapes get me every. single. timesophia_hsin_new_york_ineriors_guggenheim-1Interiors from the Guggenheim. I love you Frank Lloyd.sophia_hsin_new_york_nalata_nalata_photographer-7
Shop visits with Natala Nalata
It was wonderful meeting the shop owner and fellow Canadian in the city. The ceramic exhibition from husband and wife — Momoko and Tetsuya Otani was also a pleasure to experience.sophia_hsin_new_york_matcha_shop-10ichiyos_matcha_vancouver_bc_styling_photography-1Matcha Matcha
I am really getting into matcha these days and New York had so many matcha shops to offer. My favourites — Cha Cha Matcha and Ippudo New York. Here is a set of new photos I shot for Ichiyo Matcha in Vancouver too.

Next week I will be heading down South to tropical Kenting for a creative retreat. I look forward to spending time by the ocean, getting my feet in some white sand and unwind from the last season of work and travel.

Till next time x

Postcards from Virginia: A Holiday With my Irish Family

washington_dc_ Shenandoah_National_Park-3The wonderful view from Shenandoah Park, Washington, DC

Hello from Virginia.

I have been spending the last week in our cottage in the mountains with my Irish family, whom I met in China a few years ago and it’s been a jolly time. I feel fortunate to see to new places surrounded by family, and am learning lots about British culture and Irish tradition.

A few curious things I have learned about the Irish:

• Tea and biscuits are to be had at least three times a day
• The Irish find humour in everything
• Peanut butter is deemed a North American evil. The smell — just as rotten as veggie mite
• To be Irish you must have a love for potatoes and butter
• Every kind of fabric in the house goes under the iron. Towels, jeans, socks, sheets, ties, you name it

madison_county_usa_1Mornings around the breakfast table. Toast with butter and jam are staples.

Virginia is a peaceful county, it is a land filled with blue skies, sweet corn, and rolling hills dotted with animals. It is a nice change of pace from my previous week in New York. It is one of the first places in North America where I can hear summer cicadas that remind me of Asia — an unfamiliar yet peaceful place.

washington_dc_ Shenandoah_National_Park-4washington_dc_ Shenandoah_National_Park-10My Irish family. All three generations

We will spend the next few days visiting historical places, civil war monuments and local towns that hold much Southern charm. Most of the time it feels like I am taking a crash course in American history and but I am gaining an insight into a culture that is different than what I have learned from Hollywood films. It is an educational and eye opening experience.

chatham_manor_fredericksburg_va_usa-2.jpg
Chatham Manor in Fredericksburg. This place has the loveliest gardenscharlottesville_virginia_usa.jpgA little corner from Charlottesville, Virginia. A beautiful little town despite the recent riot

With all the negative news that comes from the media these days, I find myself especially thankful to be here. I am reminded that even though the world is not always a peaceful place, there is much good and beauty to be captured and look forward to.

Till next time.

En Route II

The end of August brings to the day a slight chill in the air, a change of pace and the quiet announcement of fall just around the corner.

I love these moments before making a big trip — days of madness where you scramble to make last minute errands, work on that last minute project and pack your worldly belongings in a travel friendly box.

There are those precious mornings where you wake to the quiet of the day and sit to watch your city wake up with the light glinting off windows, take in the hum of traffic and cries of the birds heading south.

With each trip I make and home I move I feel a shift in the idea of home. Home — really is a place to sit on your sofa and contemplate a city, a place to make food for people in your life, a shelf to store your books, and a place to shut out the world and leave and to return again.

I am excited for the next season of adventure that awaits.

new_york_city_the_met_museum_sophiahsin.jpgYesterday morning at The Met in New York City. The moment — the light, the music, the colour — was perfect.

Pender Grocery: An Interview + Pan Con Tomate Recipe

pender_grocery_store_vancouver_bc-1.jpgpender_grocery_store_vancouver_bc-7.jpg

With it’s colourful interiors and sun-lit space—it is hard to miss this charming grocery store on Pender street. The smell of fresh baked goods beckons you in to admire the shelves and tables that are wonderfully stocked with Spanish goods, everyday necessities and organic produce.

Today, I sit down with Shawn, one of the three founders of Pender Grocery. Shawn tells stories of food and travel in the Basque region, how he discovered his passion for food, and their vision to cultivate slow living in a busy city. For a moment, my mind is teleported to apple fields, farmer markets, old towns and a relaxed and pleasant ambience that the store seems to emit.

Tell me how you started from importing cider to opening a grocery store in downtown Vancouver.
A few years ago, my wife and I travelled to Spain to visit our friend Michael, who was the chef of a restaurant in San Sebastian, a city known for Michelin restaurants. Michael introduced us to Basque cuisine—we experienced the pintxo culture, and ate our way through restaurants, each more interesting than the last. The experience shook me and there I discovered that I had a deep passion for food. It was a lightbulb moment. After Michael moved back to Vancouver, the three of us started importing wine and cider from the region and it led to importing goods, and the opening of this store.

Opening a store was actually a plan for us in the next three-five years. Luckily, we came across this space at the perfect time, and the landlord, who was hugely supportive of our idea, made us an offer we couldn’t resist.

pender_grocery_store_vancouver_bc-4.jpgpender_grocery_store_vancouver_bc-6.jpg

The sign on the wall and decorations in the store caught my attention the moment I walked in, how did the look and design for the store come to be?
We are actually sitting in a space that used to be parking lot 100 years ago. The sign on the wall is something really special—we uncovered it when we were tearing down the walls to reconstruct the space. It is a ghost sign from 1906 that was covered up in 1908. We decided to keep it to lead the look of the space. After that, everything seemed to fall into place. Many of the vintage pieces here are collected from friends and family as well as passed down from Kelly’s late grandmother.

pender_grocery_store_vancouver_bc-5.jpg

This is a very interesting location to open a grocery store, what is it that you hope to bring to the community here?
Living in the city, we are disconnected from farmlands and we don’t get to see how food is grown and made. We felt that the area was lacking a grocery store, and the idea was to create a Bodega—a grocery store for the neighbourhood.

Our customers consists of working professionals, and residents form the local community. We want to cater to everyone but also want people to come in not knowing what to expect. We want to invite shoppers to take their time to browse, and to be inspired to cook.

pender_grocery_store_vancouver_bc-2.jpg

Using ingredients from your shop, what is a simple and delicious recipe that anyone can make?
I love a good Pan Con Tomate—a humble recipe with few ingredients. Slice a fresh tomato, place on traditional crusty bread, drizzle with olive oil and add a sprinkle of salt. A simple snack can be a good can of conservas from the store—sardines, squid or mussels marinated in Galician sauce. Simply open a can, dip with bread, and eat with gusto with a glass of wine. It is a tasty high end treat.

pan_con_tomate_recips-1

Pan Con Tomate Directions

In a small bowl combine sliced tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper

Whisk until combined

Toast the bread slices individually until golden warm and crispy

Set on plate and sprinkle with sea salt

Top with fresh basil

Serve